The Xbox 360 and PS3 had their time in the sun, but now they must make way for the new generation. The Xbox One and PS4 have been on the shelves for some time now. But wait, the old generation are not yet ready to retire and put their feet up in the old consoles care home. There is life in these old dogs yet. New games are being released for the Last Gen platforms still, and much of the public has yet to be convinced of the need for the shiny new gaming machines. It used to be that with a new console, the first thing you’d look for is the graphical improvements, well it’s getting harder and harder to spot when graphics improve: The limited pallette of Sonic 2 was blown away by the glossy almost 3D looking visuals of Sonic 3, Starfox was for most the first time we had ever seen 3D rendering in a game, and when the PS2 and Xbox original came along, we started to see in game characters whose faces didn’t look like they were made of LEGO. But now, the improvements from the old technology seem so be hard to notice without looking hard, and with the fast paced action of most of the games with a budget big enough to make use of the next gen consoles, most of the pretty pictures and hard work by the animators, just gets lost in the noise. As for the other improvements to the consoles as social or media machines, myself and many other, just don’t care that much for these features.
So for all the people still clinging to yesterdays console, whatever your reason; maybe you haven’t the money, or you just aren’t convinced by the new breed, maybe you will keep your trusty game box plugged in for that one favourite game you just have to play once in a while. Or maybe if you’re like me you just want to get through your games-to-play list whilst you wait for the next gen to get a little cheaper. Well here is my list of Xbox 360 gaming experiences that you simply cannot get with the Xbox One or PS4. Huh… if only there was a way to play these games on the next gen, then folks like us may have adopted the new machines by now… isn’t that right Microsoft and Sony.
So here is my list, I won’t say it’s comprehensive, after all, I haven’t played every Xbox 360 title, and I never had a PS3 so I can’t comment on the Playstation exclusives (although I may do an article on the games make me wanna buy a PS3 before a next gen console). There may be some games I haven’t played but still feel confident recommending. The qualification for entry will be based on how good the game is, but in order to get on the list the game needs more, it needs to be something you just can’t get on the next gen. There will be some obvious classics on the list, but also some under-the-radar gems you may have missed, some cult classics, and some that simply embody the spirit of the generation.
So since I have spent more than enough time rambling let’s begin with one of my favourites…
I turn to video games in my free time for a number of reasons, different games fulfil different needs, Bulletstorm fulfils the desire for fun, unabashed, unapologetic fun. To many first person shooters get bogged down in realism, precision play and a push for near constant adrenaline rushes. Not Bulletstorm, this game hands you a gym bag full of the wackiest, kill-iest nerf guns to ever get recalled from the toy store and then throws you into a consequence free playground filled with a bunch of no-one-will-miss-them types to send to an unmarked grave. And then the game turns and says “OK, you can kill the badguys, but can you kill them in a cooler or crazier way?”
Yes the aim of this game is not to efficiently headshot everyone you meet, but to find the most inventive way to defeat your enemy. And at the end of the day, if you are going to murder your way through a thousand space bandits, would your rather Judo chop your way past them like Austin Powers, or would you rather go Jackie Chan and find a dozen ridiculous ways to take them down using nought but a folding chair and soup laddel.
So if punting an explosive soccer ball into someones face or using a gravity whip and a flair gun to make a human firework sounds good to you, then you should probably try this game. Such a breath of fresh air in the genre, it’s a shame it seemed to pass by with little interest, but at least there are a lot of cheap second hand copies knocking about, but if you can, find a way to give the devs some money, find a way to pay for it new or downloaded, and pretend there is a chance we may see something like this ever again.
2. Beautiful Katamari
How can I make this list without evangelising my all time favourite series of games. From the first time my old roommate handed me the controller to the original, I have been hooked on these games. Katamari is one of the most unique games you will ever find on the console market, it is made with the kind of joy, love, and bravery that today we would most associate with the indie world. The premise is bonkers, the visuals minimalistic yet singularly stylish, and nothing is allowed to get in the way of the gameplay. This game is bonkers, but from inside its little world it makes so much sense; your father, the King of all Cosmo made a black hole by serving a tennis ball too hard, this caused all the planets and constellations to be sucked up, so it is up to you, a tiny prince, to roll up enough stuff using your super sticky Katamari ball so that the King can zap it into new celestial bodies. You roll a ball around a Japanese town, picking up anything smaller than the current ball size, this leads to a snowballing affect, allowing you to grow bigger and bigger and roll up more stuff, nothing beats the satisfying feeling when you roll up your first person, then your first car, house, so on and so on until your katamari is huge. For a game that looks like it could have been an early Nintendo 64 game, there was clearly a lot of love and care put into its creation, everything down to the little details like being able to start a snowball fight in the level selection hub. Try this or the PS3 Katamari Forever, we may never see their like again.
3. Alice: Madness Returns
I toyed with whether or not to include this game, honestly, as a game it doesn’t hold up that well. I have included it because it stands up well in other areas, namely its creepy yet eerily beautiful aesthetic, its dark narrative and its morbid twisting of a classic children’s tale. The gameplay is simple enough, a mix of 3D platforming, puzzles and familiar combat, reminiscent somewhat of Psychonauts or 3D era Zelda games. It’s like a parallel world where Mario really was fuelled my hallucinogenic mushrooms and the designer sunk into a paranoid and depressed come-down just as Mario 64 was being made. It was an intriguing journey that you share with Alice, revisiting the familiar locales and characters of the Alice in Wonderland story with adult eyes, to see the fantasy land for what it really was, like thinking back to childhood and realising for the first time why you weren’t allowed to take sweets from strangers. The atmosphere and theme is what sold me on this game, and there are some good puzzles and enemy encounters to keep you engaged along the way to boot.
4. Asura’s Wrath
Nobody does over the top like Japan. Get ready to suspend the rational part of your brain for this one, Asura’s Wrath takes you on an anger fuelled rampage the likes of which rarely seen outside of anime. In fact anime is precisely what this is, an anime cartoon in which you take control of the fighting. Just be ready to sit through a lot of slow cinematic sections, if you are familiar with action anime series, especially ones such as Naruto or Dragonball Z then I am sure you are used to the back and forth between intense action and lengthy dialogue as well as the disconnects associated with watching a Japanese story with western eyes.
The game uses the much maligned quick time events for a lot of gameplay, but it’s there from the start and failure only really affects your score, your can carry on with the story regardless. The main appeal for me was the narrative, although it won’t win any awards for writing, it is a runaway ride of anger and revenge, Asura is pissed off and will not stop for anything, you almost feel sorry for the hapless victims who try desperately to plead and reason with Asura, only for him to crush their skulls regardless. This guy starts off angrier than a punted football full of wasps and just carries on getting angrier as the story progresses. Which is lucky for him as anger seems to fuel him, the shear spectacle of the fights is immense. At one point you fight a guy larger than the whole planet and it isn’t even close to a finale. And the fight on the moon with the classical soundtrack is the definition of epic. It might not last you very long, but think of it as a binge watch of a good anime and it is time well spent.
5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2
I get the feeling this game won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you are a fan of Marvel comics and old school brawlers then you might get a kick out of this title. Loosely based on the Civil War graphic novel, this game has you pick out a team of four Marvel superheroes to kick, punch, smash, blast and… shield throw your way through hordes of henchmen and boss fights with a variety of heroes and villains. The gameplay is almost entirely brawler combat reminiscent of games like Streets of Rage. The basics of combat are pretty standard; light hit, heavy hit, special move, throw. But what makes it engaging is the team mechanic, there is a wide variety of playable characters to choose from, unique team bonuses to find for making a themed team either matching the comic book teams like the Fantastic Four and X-Men or a team of element manipulators or strong guys. But the best thing is the super team up moves you can pull off. There are dozens of match ups allowing you combine the varied powers of team members to create a bunch of powerful attacks to level your opponents. And in co-op mode, you can play as the Hulk and fast ball special your friend playing as Woverine into the badguys. If you look you may still find copies of the original game, however, I found it to be inferior, apart from looking ugly by even last gen standards, it handles clunkily and the non-boss enemies take so much effort to kill that it breaks immersion. Where as the sequel lets you mow down waves of canon fodder with glee, the original gets you wondering why it would take these superhumans so many punches just to knock out one regular guy. The sequel is a more polished game, but it still has it’s flaws, so if you get past them, it is an old school romp filled with bad ass superpowers and a ton of cameos from all over the Marvel universe. A comic book geek’s dream.
6. Crackdown 1 or 2
Honestly I cannot decide which of these to recommed so I say try either one. Sure the sequel worked out a lot of the gameplay bugs and issues of the first game, but by replacing the gangs with zombies and having the city half wrecked, the sequel lost some of the feel of the original. The enemies had more variety from district to district and the city felt more alive. These games are pretty short on story, but this allowed for focus on gameplay. Sure at times that opportunity to concentrate on gameplay seems somewhat squandered, but it will keep you entertained plenty, these are games that truly offer a free roaming sandbox experience, there are very few times when you have to do any activity other than those that you choose for yourself. And with any open world, the way you get from A to B can make or break an experience, if it’s not fun to go places, then you either have to fast travel or get bored. Either way, your sandbox won’t feel as immersive as it would if you had fun on your travels; cruising with the radio on in GTA, grappling and gliding in Arkham, or in in the case of Crackdown, leaping about like Superboy, pancaking cars with your monster truck or tossing them aside with your cattle scoop fitted supercar. These are games you can get a bit lost in, there always seems to be one more thing to do before you switch off, or an agility orb you can spot on a tall building that you just have to go get. The collectibles sing to you when you get close like Sirens luring you to your doom… I wonder if there’s anything good at the top of that skyscraper?
Part One done. Follow my blog to see more gaming experiences you just can’t get on Xbox One or PS4. I’m trying to write a mini review for at least one game a day, but I have a bunch of other projects on the go as well. Hopefully part two will be up soon. Coming up, a few more hidden gems, some all time classics, and a handful of forgotten beauties from when the last gen was still new.