How to have fun on Xbox Live without spending any money
We’ve all been there; you’re bored one evening, broke, nothing to do, your Xbox is sat there willing you to play with it but you have simply grown tired of every game you own. So you switch on the 360 and go trawling through demos and arcade trials looking for something to do. Well I’m here to point you in the direction of what you should be playing. Let’s begin then in no particular order.
Dorito’s Crash Course and Harm’s Way
A while back, Doritos held a contest where people suggested their ideas for games and the two top entries got made. Well Crash Course and Harm’s Way came out on top and I was more than happy to pick them up for the bargain price or nothing. That’s right, you can get both of these full arcade games without restriction for free, they even come with 200 points worth of achievements each. If you haven’t already downloaded these then, what are you waiting for?
Probably the better of the two games here, Crash Course is a platform racer. Using your Xbox Live avatar, you must run, jump, slide and bounce your way through an gauntlet of fiendish obstacles and pitfalls. If you enjoy shows like Takeshi’s Castle and Total Wipeout then you’ll probably get a kick out of this. As I hinted before this game can be real tricky at times, especially if you want perfect runs or high scores. But you don’t end up wanting to smash your controller when you mess up repeatedly (and mess up repeatedly you shall). The game lets you get back into the action and try again with minimal fuss, plus the animations when you fail are hilarious. Whether you are plummeting into the water, getting whacked by a giant hammer or faceplanting into a pole, you can’t help but laugh at your avatars pain. With a bunch of levels and easy to learn slapstick action, this is a definite recommendation for a game to try out, score some easy achievements and keep on the hard drive to bring out when you have friends over.
Pretty standard fare this one, but still worth a go, it is free after all. This game can be summed up as snipers versus race cars. You can play in one of two ways; tearing around a course as fast as possible avoiding sniper fire, obstacles and collecting power ups, or as a sniper perched atop the cliffs trying to pick off the cars as they whizz around. The driving is nothing you probably haven’t seen before, like a lazily executed Mario Kart or Wipeout. As for the snipers, you may as well be shooting at cardboard cutout ducks going around, there isn’t really much more to the challenge than picking a spot, hitting an moving target and avoiding the cars with the shield power up. It does the job of passing the time, but don’t expect much more from it. If you are an achievement enthusiast then this one should be in you 100% collection yesterday. I think I took about 20 minutes to collect the full 200 gamerscore on this game and have barely touched it since. Did I mention it’s free?
Now here’s a couple of game trials that you can really fine yourself sinking a lot of time into. Get yourself from the Start line to the finish in as short a time as possible, easy right, except between you and your goal is some an obstacle course that would make Evel Knievelturn tail and run like a little girl. The first time you run through the tracks you’ll be happy just the make it to the end, and with the courses full of tricky balance sections and high speed jumps across giant gaps, it can be a feat in itself to make it to the end. Soon enough though you’ll be replaying the levels looking for that flawless run for the gold medal. Both games are well worth trying out, though the latter is far prettier, just careful not to get too stressed out if you are finding a certain section tough to beat.
Sniper Elite V2
This game seemed to slip by without much fanfare or acknowledgement but was actually top of the sales charts for a while. And after a typically slow summer and based on the strength of the demo, I can see why. The demo drops you in a dilapidated house in the middle of some WWII bombing site with a bunch of nazis between you and a series of yellow destination points. Frankly the plot and setting (no idea where I was, I swear I saw a Norwegian flag, which makes no sense from what I know of history) are secondary to the game play, which is having as much fun as possible sending pieces of metal flying through nazi vital organs using your telescopic murder stick. The gun play is very involved, depending on the difficulty you have to manage your breathing and heart rate, all while adjusting your aim for the bullet dropping over long distances, wind and moving targets. It can be quite a challenge, but the reward for getting it just right is spectacular. Land a bullet just right on a vital point and you can follow it on it’s trajectory through the air and see a detailed X-ray view of your victims innards and see the destruction you have caused, whether it’s seeing bits of eyeball skull flying out the backs of their heads or a perfectly severed windpipe, it makes you feel like a badass.
Just Cause 2
A free roaming open world demo, that’s what I like to see. This game seems ropey at best, but compensates by just how much you can do in it, and how ridiculous and fun the grappling hook can be. This isn’t one you’ll be picking up for the story, and the voice acting was headache inducing, I have no idea what accent they were aiming for, even if the lady giving you orders was speaking in her natural accent, it just felt borderline racist. But who cares! Grappling hook! They really have let you go crazy with this thing, from hooking a statue to a car to pull it down, to climbing on the roof of a moving car and grappling onto a motorbike travelling the opposite way. I’d recommend just playing around in the open world setting for this one, I tried the missions and it was fairly plain. This is a game that seems best when you are just messing around, the gunplay is nothing special and at times stupid, you can fire five bullets into the chest of an enemy but using the grappling hook as a melee weapon will kill them in one or two hits. I preferred to hook them and pull them through the air towards me and whack them, though this did lead to possible the stupidest line of dialogue I’ve ever heard in a video game. To paraphrase “Oh no. He’s going to hit me with his whip thing.”
Sales and Specials+ and Xbox Live Rewards
These are not anything that will entertain you on a bored monday night, but over time they might net you some free stuff. If you haven’t already then go to the apps page of your Xbox homepage and download the Sales and Specials + app. Everyday you can play a free scratch card game for the chance to win prizes. I’ve never won but apparently you get put into a draw to win gifts such as avatar items, Microsoft points or Xbox Live Arcade games. There are other nice extras available to you such as weekly discounts to games and downloadable content in addition to the usual Deal of the Week.
Next you’ll want to go to the Xbox Live Rewards webpage http://rewards.xbox.com/ and sign up for more free stuff. There are always a bunch of ways to earn extra microsoft points and even the occasional competition. Most of the promotions involve you spending money on certain DLC or renewing your gold membership, but the best way to get some MS points for free is to take the monthly survey. You get to voice your opinion on Xbox products and you’ll receive 20 MS points every month for less than five minutes work. Since I signed up about a year and a half ago I’ve earned 870MS points, that’s enough for an XBLA game.
One play through of this demo can keep you going for a long time, I kept thinking to myself “Is this really still going, it must’ve been more than an hour already.” And I think it was that long, after all this is a game from the people behind Civilisation so you are going to need a generous amount of time to really get a feel for it.
As the dictator of a tropical island it is your job to manage the island, keep people happy or rule through fear, just be prepared for the people to rise up if they don’t like the way you do things. All the while you must keep the global superpowers happy and on your side.
That’s it for now, I should be putting up some more of these soon, feel free to suggest any other gems you have found that I may have missed.