Specials: Get in the Limo Gary... I'm not going to **** your mouth...
Welcome to part 2 of my little Xbox retrospective opus. I hope you enjoyed part 1, even if you feel your favorite game was left out, you may see it here in this next installment. And remember ? these are my best Xbox experiences ? if you have some that you'd like to share with us, feel free to drop an email to email@example.com
and perhaps if I get enough interesting material I'll do a GT readers best of article. OK, without further ado, here are my next 7 picks?.
Max Payne/Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne.
Originally PC titles, both Max Payne adventures were perfect when ported to MS's console. Razor sharp graphics, all the whistles and bells of the PC versions and great gunplay, not to mention bullet time antics galore, Max Payne and Max Payne 2 are perhaps the finest examples of action to grace the Xbox this generation.
Max Payne ? December 21, 2001
As I said before, the game's visuals are about on par with the highest end PCs. The characters in the game look and move realistically, the explosion effects are top notch, and the amazing texture work makes every room in the game almost photo-realistic. Just about everything in the game is interactive too. Push a button on the beverage machine and a coke pops out, shoot a light and electricity sparks, also, when you shoot a wall, or inanimate object, huge chunks of it flies off (which looks really cool in the middle of a gun fight). The weather effects are nice as well. In the story, New York City is having a pretty bad blizzard, so when in outdoor environments you'll see snowflakes slowly floating down and you'll make footprints in the snow as you walk through it. You just have to love the attention to detail in this game, and it all wraps up into one beautiful package.
? Ryan Smotherman
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne ? February 12, 2004
Max Payne 2 looks simply stunning. The appearance of the character models is much improved from the first game, and the dreary environments of the New York underworld are wrapped in perfect, razor-sharp textures. The weapons fire looks great, with spot on muzzle flares and realistic looking bullets whizzing by your head in slow motion. The game also employs rag doll physics to absolute perfection. Enemies fly back against walls, slide down stairs, and generally crumple into realistic looking heaps of death every time you unload a magazine into them. Add to this exceptional lighting and the ability to shoot objects off of shelves, or blow up an ammo barrel and send adversaries sailing through the air - while completely on fire -- and you've got one realistic shooter on your hands.
Ryu Hayabusa's quest to avenge his destroyed clan by way of taking on the Vigoor Empire is the
killer action game of the generation for Xbox. Astounding graphics and art design, incredible play mechanics, tons of downloadable content and support combined with a brutal, unforgiving difficulty made NG a favorite of intense action fans everywhere. And it's only on Xbox?.
Ninja Gaiden ? March 19, 2004
Visually, NG is simply stunning. The environments are lovingly wrapped in razor sharp textures, particle effects are seen in abundance whenever Ryu clashes with adversaries, and the level of detail in every nook and cranny is astounding. The character models are some of the best I've seen to date, brimming with meticulous detail and realistic weaponry. Each character's animations, from the lowliest ninja footsoldier to the massive bosses, and of course, Ryu himself ? looks absolutely perfect. The really cool thing about the world of Ninja Gaiden is the sheer variety of areas, and the continuous feeling that everything is connected. As you make your way through the Vigoorian streets, you may find yourself realizing that the deep caverns you've been moving through end up coming out into another part of the city, and the enemies you spied in the distance a few hours ago are now in your face and ready to do battle. Very cool stuff.
Ninja Gaiden is an amazing action game. It does everything just about perfectly, and then some. The difficulty is pretty staggering at first, but as you unlock new combos and learn the nuances of combat, you'll find yourself transformed into an incredibly effective killing machine. The boss battles are seriously tough, and you'll no doubt have to spend some time learning how to take each one of them down, but the sense of accomplishment you'll feel after a particularly tough fight is out of this world.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Yes?as Yoda would say ?Dorky Star Wars fan I am?
but that doesn't change the fact that Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic is one of the best console RPGs to come along in years. Featuring an amazing story with a plot twist worthy of ?Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father?? and fantastic gameplay, KOTOR is a definitive Star Wars title as well as a solid example of what a truly talented developer can accomplish.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ? September 11, 2003
Some of the more noteworthy aspects of the game are in the area of story and characterization. The obvious cool implications of the Star Wars license aside, you'll also thoroughly enjoy interacting with NPCs, as well as the members of your own party, most of whom you'll simply pick up (in neat little story arcs) during your travels. Yes, you'll get some cool droids, and your very own life-debt owing Wookie. It simply doesn't get any more authentic than that. All of your party members have history, motivations, and a great deal of personality. You can (and should) talk to virtually everyone you see, and the various indigenous beings, shop owners, political activists, and all manner of other creatures have plenty to say. The voice acting is most impressive, with some of the better thespians in the business handling key roles. Actually, KOTOR has possibly the best voice acting seen in a videogame to date, and a story that puts all of that incredible dialogue to excellent use.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is simply the greatest SW experience to ever grace a home console. It's also the RPG that Xbox owners have been waiting for since launch. The size and scope of the adventure, and the incredibly diverse cast of characters you'll encounter, combined with the epic story and tremendous number of amazing locations will absolutely blow your mind, and I guarantee that you'll never want the game to end. Exploring, fighting, and leveling up with your party will keep you glued to the screen for the foreseeable future, and you'll easily get 40 hours of play the first time through. There's real incentive to play through the game again as a dark character, so technically, you could see 80 hours of Jedi fun by the time you're completely finished. If you're a Star Wars fan, an RPG fan, or just a connoisseur of top-shelf AAA games, run to the store and buy Knights of the Old Republic. It'll be the best $50.00 you've ever spent in your entire gaming career?seriously.
An interesting title for Xbox - some hated it, some loved it - but either way Crimson Skies from Fasa Studios was a game you couldn't ignore. Featuring extremely impressive graphics, a large variety of war planes and ultra detailed environments in which to fly and dogfight with them, a great pulp story that unfolds like Indiana Jones crossed with Sky Captain and tons of cool multiplayer arenas to pull crazy acrobatics in as you shoot down your buddies, CS is a definitive AAA title for the Xbox?
Crimson Skies ? January 15, 2004
Graphically CS has few equals. Everything looks absolutely perfect ? from the incredible landscapes dotted with cool structures, to the ultra-detailed planes (watch the flaps pop on the Devastator when you hit the brakes!) it's all stunningly presented. The water in particular looks insanely real, and if you skim the surface, water droplets spray your screen. Little touches like this make the game really standout, and push it to the forefront of Xbox visuals. Flying through Chicago at twilight -- with the sun reflecting off of the water -- is a surreal experience that simply can't be described, you really need to see it for yourself. Weapon's fire looks fantastic, and the enemy planes burn and break apart nicely, trailing black smoke and belching flames as the pieces spiral towards the ground. The sound is just as well implemented, with the bark of heavy machineguns and the whooshing of rockets as they launch towards an enemy plane sounding spot-on perfect. All of the voice acting is fantastic, and the music is some of the best original stuff I've yet heard in a game. The fanfare and flourish that plays when you waste the last enemy in a mission really gets you pumped, and while it's an obvious homage to John Williams, it's done so well that it transcends mere mimicry.
Crimson Skies can be recommended whole-heartedly for its single player game alone, but the multiplayer is where this title really pulls out all the stops. You can go at it with up to 16 players via Xbox Live in gametypes such as Dogfight, Team Dogfight, Keep Away, Flag Heist and Wild Chicken. All of the modes are incredibly fun, and coordinating attacks with your wingmen never gets old. The game performs well online, though those hosts with lower bandwidth should keep the numbers down. You may find yourself flying through a health and not have it register for a few seconds, a sure sign that junior is over-hosting. You'll rarely see planes teleporting around the maps, but that doesn't mean there's no lag. I personally prefer hosting a smaller game (8 ? 10) even though I have enough upload to handle more. It gives you room to breath and prevents the match from degenerating into a dim-witted slug-fest. Much like Live's flagship title MechAssault, CS allows for downloadable content (new planes and maps). Currently, the Fury (a kickin' little dogfighter) and Caverns (an underground map) are available to DL, with more content to be offered in the near future.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Richard B. Riddick, escaped convict, murderer?nice to meet you. With those words an iconic character was born. Riddick is the ultimate bad-ass, from killing monster alien/pterodactyl things on the darkest planet in the universe to taking on the world eaters who are destroying one planet after the next (not to mention outrunning the brutal and deadly sun of Crematoria). In association with Diesel himself, Starbreeze Studios crafted a fantastic adventure based on a movie license that for once in videogame history stood on its own as a top quality title.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay ? April 15, 2004
Besides the neck breaking and brawling, Riddick will also be able to take a shiv or a screwdriver from enemies, and use it against them, as well as anyone else stupid enough to go up against the big guy. All of the guns in Butcher Bay are DNA-encoded to the guard staff only, so at some point in the adventure, Riddick will need to get to the central database to upload his DNA. Once that mission is complete, EFBB changes pace to an all out assault, with Riddick facing all sorts of intense firefights. The development team is working hard to insure that the balance between stealth and all out action is maintained, so expect to shift gears between the two styles on the fly. You'll also be able to use the environment to your advantage, and killing guards by tossing them into a corpse disposal unit, affectionately known as the meat grinder, looks like seriously gory fun.
Graphically, Escape From Butcher Bay looks amazing. Through the use of Normal Mapping, unbelievable detail has been added to all facets of the game. Every surface is reflective, and metal walls will glow red from being blasted. The weapon models are intricately detailed, as are the environments. The character model of Riddick looks absolutely perfect, and the guards and inmates look on par with the main protagonist. The level architecture is insane, and really goes a long way towards immersing you into the adventure. Riddick's escape will take you through the bowels of the old prison, as well as filthy jail cells, dark and foreboding mines, and a clinical cryo-sleep facility -- not to mention a few others. Sources indicate that the sound is as well implemented as the visuals, with the various eerie cries and screams of tortured inmates adding greatly to the oppressive atmosphere. Additionally, Vin Diesel himself is involved intimately with the game, and will be providing Riddick with his distinctive voice.
Id Software's retooling of their classic franchise proved to be a perfect port from high end PCs to Xbox as the immersive, terrifying and visceral atmosphere, combined with the best graphics to date, plunged gamers into a high-tech haunted house of horrific monsters and provided them with the brutal firepower necessary to quell the threat of Hell on Earth?.or in this case Hell on Mars.
Doom 3 ? May 2, 2005
Doom 3 is a throwback to the original corridor-crawl, all spruced up in new millennium technology. It's a carnival funhouse, a haunted mansion, and the thrills found within are mostly high shock value spook-show material, equal parts Evil Dead and Alien, with a smattering of HellRaiser thrown in for good measure. As the hero Marine, you'll make your way through the overrun base with a healthy assortment of cool guns in tow. The shotgun is a great close quarters weapon (and a lot of the fighting will be done close enough to smell the fetid breath of the truly repulsive demons and other assorted beasties) but there are situations that call for arms with greater range. You're covered there as well, with everything from a cool plasma rifle to a machinegun available for busting the asses of Hell's legions. Chaingun, pistol, chainsaw (yea, that's fun)?it's all there, including the infamous BFG. Collecting health and armor is standard here as well. Other interactive elements in the dark, claustrophobic environments create a sense of immersion, such as the PDA's of fallen scientists and security officers that you'll find scattered about. These are primary sources of information on everything from door & locker codes to base operations, and they're extremely well implemented, seamlessly working into the storyline.
Visually, Doom 3 is almost without equal. Despite lower resolutions than the ultimate PC rig, on an HDTV running in 480p, the game looks simply stunning. The lighting and shadow effects are absolutely mind-boggling, and every texture and model found throughout the game is razor sharp and ultra-detailed. As well the aural presentation is unparalled, with incredible clarity and perfectly placed effects helping to create the awesome atmosphere and complimenting the superb visuals with equally perfect sound. The voice acting hits a similar highpoint, and the music is appropriate, if somewhat unremarkable. As part of its fear factor, Doom 3 forces you to switch between your currently equipped weapon and your flashlight (accomplished with a simple button press) ? in other words, in the particularly dark areas, you'll be momentarily unarmed as you sweep your lantern into corners and under desks. This is a phenomenal gameplay mechanic that ratchets up the tension even more, and the first time you fumble from light to gun and hastily blow away some freak you'll be hooked. There were complaints from PC gamers regarding this (leading to the now well known Duct Tape mod); however since Doom 3 for Xbox has been lightened up a bit it's less of a constant issue here. In addition, the developers have streamlined some of the game to create better balance for a console shooter, and the inclusion of co-op mode (where you can fight through a modified version of the single player campaign with a friend via Live or LAN) really improves the experience, and effectively illustrates the level of dedication that was lavished on this version of the game.
Doom 3 is a consummate single player experience that shouldn't be missed by FPS or action/horror fans. The mood is captured exquisitely and the cutting-edge technology really sells the experience like never before. Without hesitation I can say it's one of the best looking and sounding Xbox games to date, and virtually nothing has been lost in the translation from PC. It's creepy, immersive, dark - and features a style that really gets into your head. Weapons fire carries appropriate weight, and blasting monsters is both visually pleasing and immensely satisfying. The quirky, unnerving realism of the creature's animations, combined with the oppressive and bleak sci-fi setting make Doom 3 one of the most effective horror titles in the history of gaming, even if the point and shoot simplicity is a bit repetitive. It may be just that, but it still manages to slam you in the gut like a freight train. No matter, Carmack and Romero wouldn't have it any other way.
Ok, so be it for part 2. Please join us for the 3rd and final installment of Best of the Xbox here at Gaming Target soon... and don't forget to drop me a line about your
favorite Xbox games over the last 4 years.