You can’t go wrong with these great value Xbox 360 games. If a game is featured here, it’s worth buying.
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Need for Speed and Mario Kart meet, get along famously.
Split/Second combines fast cars, big explosions and destructible environments to make a deliciously fun and unique racer. You’re the up and coming star of the world’s most popular show- Split/Second. Race your way through 12 ‘episodes’ to become the Split/Second grand champion. Each episode contains a series of different events- they don’t call them races- because some will have you avoiding missiles fired from helicopters, or simply not being in last place when a timer reaches zero. All these game modes are fun- but the out and out racing is where Split/Second really shines. What makes Split/Second so unique is the combining of arcade racing action with various strategy elements. Drifting around corners and drafting behind other racers earns you the ability to execute “power plays”- events which change something in the environment to give you the competitive edge over your opponents. Bridges collapse, tankers explode, buildings crash to the ground- the aim is to find the best driving line through the carnage and hope the other racers crash and burn. Some power plays do more damage and pose more danger than others, and risk assessment on the fly is imperative to winning races. Split/Second looks absolutely stunning, the explosions and lighting effects impress to no end- and there’s an instant replay mode for the biggest and most damaging power plays. It’s awesome to watch the event you set off take out 5 racers in one hit, and while the replay simply happens mid race- the game seamlessly brings you straight back into to the action- something other games have failed to pull off (I’m looking at you, Burnout Paradise). There’s a 2 player split screen mode which is extremely playable, and anyone can learn the controls quickly. Split/Second is the most fun I’ve had with a racer in a long, long time- and for $38 it’s fun for everyone and simply shouldn’t be missed.
A different kind of soccer riot.
After 19 iterations, FIFA soccer continues to be the definitive console football experience. Customize everything, and play as anyone from virtually any team in the world in fully realised real life stadiums. Year in year out, FIFA continues to refine and improve over last years experience, most notably in FIFA 11 a new passing system and the ability to control the goalie for the entire match. On the face of it, FIFA 11 is not a pick up and play title- with so much micro management to keep track of and an overwhelming host of menus and options to navigate, getting the most out of a FIFA game will require a big investment of time. That said, newcomers can easily pick up the control and learn the basics, just expect to be owned by your friends who’ve played before and understand the intricacies of the gameplay mechanics. If you’re a soccer fan, FIFA 11 is quite simply the best choice- just don’t say that around lovers of the FIFA series’ biggest rival, Pro Evolution Soccer. At $60 and dropping, grab FIFA 11 and brush up on your soccer skills in time for the inevitable FIFA 12.
Whack it open and taste the gaming goodness.
Create your own virtual garden and attract an amazing array of wild animals, known as Pinata. Use your knowledge of the species to cater to their every need. Buy and sell at the local store, make friends with your neighbours and trade tips.
The colourful art style and seemingly child-friendly interface left Viva Pinata largely overloooked when it was released in 2006. While it may not be as complex as some other strategy/simulation games, Viva Pinata is a great starting point for beginners interested in the genre. Provided you have a half decent memory that is, because at times you have a lot going on. Multi tasking is the key to most games of this type, and Viva Pinata is no different.
You’ll also need to think outside the box when it comes to attracting new species of Pinata to your garden. You’ll need to understand the food chain and be brave enough to venture out at night to collect the nocturnal Pinata, some of which are cute, but not exactly friendly. Don’t worry though, you can literally beat the stuffing out of them and allow the other Pinata to feast on their insides. Funniest of all, you’ll need to provide love nests for the Pinatas to mate, or ‘romance’ as the game calls it.
At less than $20 Viva Pinata is a great buy for 360 owners looking for something different. Even if you only play through once and disregard the online features, it’s still worth it. There’s also a sequel called Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, and a game for Nintendo DS- Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise.
TOP TIP: Be sure to use the advanced camera setting instead of beginner. You can change it in the options menu and we recommend you do from the start because it makes the game much more playable.
Pure risk. Pure fun.
PURE is 4 wheeler racing with huge jumps and insane tricks, set across breathtaking real world locations. It’s the PURE world championship, and it’s up to you to get to the top. The game allows players to build their own ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) from scratch, and you’ll need to customize one for each style of race: stunt, race, and sprint.
Steering your ATV couldn’t be simpler- just hold the right trigger to accelerate and move the left stick to steer. There’s a few other control options, and one allows you to use the A button as accelerate- more akin to Mario Kart. We recommend trying all of them first off to see which one you like best, because as you get into the more advanced trick combos, being comfortable with what button does what becomes super important.
Steering may be easy to grasp, but to progress through PURE you’ll need to master the stunts. Stunts consist of a “pre-load” and a well timed button press to perform basic jumps, then more complex button presses for more complex stunts and combos. You’ll also need to remember which stunts you’ve done recently, because the game will penalise you for repeating tricks or playing it too safe.
The pre-load in PURE really just means as you approach a jump you must pull back on the control stick until you’re almost in the air. This steadies your ride and prepares you for the jump, and that’s when you’ll use the left stick and press buttons to perform stunts. The bigger the jump and the better your pre-load, the more air you’ll get and the more time you’ll have to pull off awesome stunt combos.
It’s an absolute blast, and trying to fit in one more trick before you hit the ground is always nerve wracking fun. And just wait till the first time you see your player mess up a stunt and come crashing violently (this is a Disney game, so no blood) back to earth. Awesome stuff.
With a fun create-a-vehicle feature, three different race styles- all of which you’ll have to get good at if you want to progress, as well as a heap of tracks, (some of them just eye-poppingly beautiful) and wicked sound effects and music, PURE is a must have 360 title. Shame there’s no two or four player split screen, though. PURE is also available on PS3.
Prince Of Persia
A true example of video games as art.
Explore a vast, beautiful world as the unnamed Prince- swing, jump, run and liberate a world corrupted by the evil of Ahriman, a dangerous ancient God about to escape after being imprisoned for a lifetime. The Prince teams up with Elika, a beautiful stranger whose ancestors enslaved the evil Ahriman eons ago. Elika and her mysterious powers will help the Prince navigate the terrain and defeat enemies along the way.
The landscapes are sprawling and wondrous, from the ruins of enormous castles, to lush green mountain tops with the ocean glistening in the distance- the art in the environments and architecture of the levels are second to none. It truly is like playing through a living, breathing watercolour painting.
What sets Prince Of Persia apart from other games (including other games in the series) is its relaxed approach to controls. Moving the Prince is as simple as moving the left thumb stick, and as standard as you may expect, but performing the wealth of acrobatic moves such as running up walls, jumping, crawling upside down, etc. are all done with simple, flowing button combinations. Press A to make the Prince run along a wall, for example, and he may need to grab onto a ledge, mid air. Simply tap B and he’ll grab the ledge, tap B again and he’ll scuttle up the ledge to safety, just like that. It’s all about getting the most fluid movement of the Prince through the environment, and these simple button combinations allow the player to really sit back and enjoy the ride.
Thanks to Elika and her mysterious powers, the Prince can never die. She’ll save you every time you fall off a ledge or get pounded too hard by enemies. Every time. Odd at first, this feature simply serves as a rewind button, so no boring load times if you make a mistake. No “You Died” or “Game Over”, the game simply places you back to just before you made the mistake and lets you try again. It really works in this type of game and serves to bring the stress level of the player down even further.
There’s not much to really do in the game either. It’s simply navigate the terrain, fight a few bad guys and collect ”Light Seeds”, shiny orbs placed around the levels, often in hard to reach places. A certain amount of Light Seeds are needed to open new areas, and this is where your knowledge of the Prince’s acrobatic moveset really comes into play.
Prince Of Persia is one of those games where you get out what you put in, so knowing the moves, knowing how to use Elika and her powers and remembering the combat moves to plough through the enemies is paramount. The game also allows the player to involve themselves in the story as much as they choose- simply tap the right shoulder button to talk to Elika whenever you want. Play will stop and she’ll take you through the history of the world, Ahriman, and her role in the whole thing. You can find out as little or as much as you like.
You need to approach this game with the right mindset- it’s mostly about enjoying the amazing environments and mastering the art of smooth flowing acrobatics and combat- achieve this and the game becomes a visual feast unlike any other. Not to be confused with the very different Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, Prince of Persia is also available on Ps3.
Gears Of War
Big men, big guns, big action.
Few games come along to really define a genre. Resident Evil 4 redefined the third person action game in 2005, and Gears Of War did it again in 2006. Playing as Marcus Fenix, part of a super tough group of mercenaries whose mission is to defeat a devastating array of angry alien types known as The Locust.
Many a game has pit its hero against an alien race in a post apocalyptic world, but Gears Of War does it with such wonderful class. From the (at the time) cutting edge graphics, to the awesome gun and explosion effects- Gears has it all going on. Not to mention the accompanying musical score, which helps to raise and lower the tempo and the tension at key moments to really add to the atmosphere.
But awesome graphics and sound alone do not equal innovation, nor do they redefine genres. Gears of War innovates by introducing a one-button cover system, which allows for pillars, ledges, fallen statues and a wealth of other things in the game environment to become cover at any given time.
Taking cover in games is nothing new, but so dynamic and successfully implemented is the cover system in Gears, that it allows for some of the smoothest flowing and intuitive gameplay ever seen. Similar cover systems immediately began popping up in many other action games, and in the sequel Gears Of War 2 (where most of the online multiplayer has since moved to), this system was further refined.
Big weapons, a big, angry protagonist, and a host of incredible set pieces combine with awesomely powerful enemies (including one of the most memorable final boss battles ever) to make Gears Of War an absolute must play for all 360 owners. There’s an easy difficulty setting for the less seasoned- and we whole heartedly encourage any beginners to give this one a go as well. For less than $15, if Gears isn’t in your 360 collection, you’re simply missing out on a game that set the bar for action. Gears of War 2 is also available, and Gears 3 is coming in 2011.
Mass Effect 2
Released in 2010 to much fanfare, Mass Effect 2 is a must have title for Xbox 360 owners. Part RPG, part third person action and all mind blowing, it’s a space epic in every sense of the word. Mass Effect 2 aims to draw in the player by appealing to their emotions as well as their senses. This game is hardcore, and requires a big investment of time, but with a little perseverance is reasonably accessible for those less experienced. And if you are a beginner- welcome to the pinnacle of modern gaming. You can pick up the original Mass Effect for about $20.
Project Gotham Racing 3
A wonderfully crafted and accessible racing game, Gotham 3 rides the line between arcade racing and driving simulator. Its unique points sytem, called “kudos” is the games main selling point, chasing that kudos is extremely addictive. Better than Gotham 4 thanks to a smoother HUD, among other things, and it’s much cheaper, too. The best budget racer on 360 and the best starting point for newcomers to the series or racing games in general. At $20, Gotham 3 is a steal and must be played.
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What do you think of my list so far? What am I missing? What games desperately need to be here? Let me know by leaving a comment!
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