Specials: Good job team. Report back to base for debriefing and cocktails?
Welcome to the third and final installment of my top Xbox picks over the past four years. Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive listing of every great game to grace the big green machine, only a smattering of my personal best gaming adventures. Some of the titles found here in part 3 may not have been the biggest AAA games of the generation, but I found them to be classics. It's like finding a kick-ass little b-movie that may not have gotten the same level of attention as a major blockbuster, but are amazing gems in their own right nonetheless. So, without further ado, here they are?
Otogi: Myth of Demons
One of the aforementioned little gems courtesy of From Software (who are, even as you read this, toiling away on Chromehounds for the 360) Otogi is an incredible action game with a gorgeous art style, amazing graphics and impressive play mechanics. As Raikoh the vengeful swordsman, you'll rumble with demons in amazing fantasy settings featuring incredible air battles and fully destructible environments. Truly heroic.
Otogi: Myth of Demons ? September 23, 2003
Visually Otogi is among the best the Xbox has to offer. Witness gorgeous worlds made up of quasi-historical fantasy settings that teem with a soft diffused art-style and are imbued with saturated color that leaps off the screen. The enemies look great, and the bosses (who, it must be forewarned, can be frustrating and a bit on the difficult side) nonetheless display fluid motion and astonishing color and detail while they're whipping your ass (the centipede monster simply has to be experienced). Ditto for the sound, as the roar of your foes and the crashing of debris all combine to create an aural picture of battle that's just as exciting as the visual. The music is subdued but powerful, and relies heavily on more traditional classical fare, which isn't surprising, as the entire premise of the game is based on Japanese mythology.
Any way you slice it (ha?slice, get it?) Otogi: Myth of Demons is a first-rate game. From the cutting edge visuals and sound to the over the top play mechanics, Otogi is a title no fan of action gaming should be without. Taking control of the incredibly powerful warrior Raikoh is great fun, and you'll spend hours kicking demonic ass while you drool over the eye candy on display throughout. The mid-air battles are dizzying, and dueling baddies high above the ground will leave you begging for more. Otogi is a must have for the hardcore. I really can't recommend it enough. Get to your favorite game store and snag yourself a copy?.you'll be glad you did.
Star Wars: Battlefront
As a card carrying Star Wars dork, I can't leave out Battlefront. One of the best games to ever utilize the license, SW:BF offered incredible online battles worthy of the films and allowed for some truly incredible Star Wars moments. Fighting through the streets of Mos Eisley, or cutting down Battledroids on Geonosis, it was all Star Wars insanity, all the time. Except when Count Dooku and Vader would finally start going at it in the middle of a huge skirmish, only to decide fighting each other was too much like work, and immediately lose interest and go back to hacking apart hapless Clone Troopers?
Star Wars: Battlefront ? October 1, 2004
SW: BF allows you to play through that galaxy far, far away in either the Historical Campaign (which lets you participate in battles from both the Clone Wars era of Episodes I, II and the upcoming Episode III, and the Galactic Civil war portrayed in Episodes IV, V, and VI -- in chronological order) or Galactic Conquest, in which you take control of specific planets to eventually dominate the galaxy. There's also an Instant Action mode for those who want to jump right into the fight.
Essentially, you'll take on the role of a foot soldier and battle your way across huge maps filled with every imaginable Star Wars vehicle (all of which can be piloted) droid, weapon, and alien creature. Everything from the Battle Of Endor, to the opening battle of The Clone Wars on Geonosis, is here for your enjoyment. Taking its cue from the popular PC title Battlefield: 1942, each map is basically a huge chess match of domination. Each team (Imperials and Rebels, or CIS and Clone Army) start with a specific amount of reinforcements (or re-spawns) and the objective to take over control points scattered around the battlefield. You must lead your team (made up of 16 bots per side) to victory by either capturing every control point on the map, or by simply running out the enemy's reinforcements. Once your team takes a control point, your reinforcements can re-spawn there. Conversely, if you lose a control point, the enemy will now re-spawn there, while your reinforcements are cut off in that area. To take a control point, you must stand near it for a specified amount of time. It will turn from red (enemy controlled) to white (neutral, neither side can spawn there) and finally to green, which means your side now controls the point. The more friendly troops you have crowding a control point, the faster it will change color. Additionally, if there are any enemies in the immediate area, the changeover will hold until you've cleared them all out.
Despite some of its flaws Star Wars: Battlefront delivers what it promises ? massive Star Wars engagements that drop you right into the films. While portions of the game are somewhat unpolished, the good far outweighs the bad, and if you're a Star Wars fan, you owe it to yourself to check out this title. Everything you love about the series is faithfully recreated here, and you'll have hours of fun online fighting the greatest skirmishes in the universe with your buddies. The offline portion is over quickly, but still has something decent to offer. However, online is where this baby really shines. I don't have a bad feeling about this, so pick it up and hop into the galaxy far, far away. As a Star Wars fan, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3
Rainbow Six?.the venerable PC title made its way to the Xbox in an incredible package designed just for the console from the ground up. Despite some obnoxious online glitches, R63 was embraced wholeheartedly by the Xbox Live community, turning it into the shooter of the year and cementing the Rainbow series' status as one of the best tactical combat games available for online play.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 ? January 5th, 2004
This brings us to the online play, which is absolutely stellar. Several adversarial game types are available, including Sharpshooter. This is an every man for himself deathmatch, and when you die you'll respawn and join the action again. Also included are Survival and Team Survival, both of which limit you to one life only ? no respawns. These are great fun, and even when you eat it, you'll be able to hang out with other ?dead? players and chat while you watch the rest of the round unfold. The maps are great, and feature lots of cool locations and plenty of spots to stalk your enemies from. There are numerous options available to the host, including the ability to turn friendly fire on or off, and whether or not to punish team-killers.
Some of my favorite matches in Rainbow Six 3 have been in the cooperative modes. Up to 4 gamers can play through any of the single player missions together over Live, as well as engage in Terrorist Hunt. Basically, this drops you and your buds into a map with randomly spawning adversaries along the way, with the mission order to exterminate all threats with extreme prejudice. Playing as a team with 3 other people is what R63 is all about, and the feeling of being a real special forces operative is captured perfectly as you tackle the mission objectives together. Online camaraderie just doesn't get much better than this boys and girls.
Graphically Rainbow Six 3 looks fantastic. Running on a modified version of the Splinter Cell engine, the lighting and shadows are simply beautiful. Ditto for the environments, which feature clean textures and realistic architecture. The weapons are perfectly modeled and the fire, explosions and other effects look top notch. The character models are well detailed, and the night and thermal vision are stunning. The sound is extremely well implemented, and the whine of ricocheting bullets and the roar of explosions truly immerse you in the game world. The music is understated, but used to good effect throughout.
Another nice surprise, The Suffering, from developer Surreal Software flew in under the radar and slammed home its themes with brutal intensity. One of the best horror games I've ever played, The Suffering places you into the blood soaked clothes of Torque, a prison inmate who may, or may not, have murdered his family. Once the lights go out at Abbott State Penitentiary, prison sex will be the least of your worries. Trapped in the island lockup (think Alcatraz with monsters) Torque must battle his way through the demon hordes, all the while deciding his moral choices and trying to make sense of the countless visions in his head.
The Suffering ? April 26, 2004
The game relies heavily on combat, so instead of tearing ass away from the danger, you'll find yourself with plenty of weapons, and ammo, with which to dispatch your foes. In light of this fact, you'll take most of the creatures head on, which is viscerally exciting and pretty thrilling, though eventually it degenerates into pretty repetitious work. In addition to dual revolvers, Torque will also have access to a Thompson submachine gun, a pump action shotgun (great for close range splattering), grenades (flashbang and shrapnel), and TNT. In addition, Torque can use Shivs or Molotov Cocktails, and is equipped with a flashlight for searching out the dark corners of the prison. You'll need to keep an eye on your battery power though, and be on the lookout for replacements as you move through the oppressive environments.
Speaking of which, Abbott State Penitentiary is one creepy place. While much of the game takes place in the prison itself ? various cell-blocks, guard areas, and medical facilities abound ? you'll also find yourself outside, exploring the island that surrounds it. Climbing gantry towers, slowly plodding through gated fields and outlying buildings is great fun, and quite suspenseful as you wait for the next attack. The game takes a Clive Barker approach to its horror themes as opposed to say, Peter Straub. In other words, it's gore and shock value over a more traditional ghost story, but it works extremely well. The prison, and the surrounding island are perfect settings for this type of twisted tale, and twisted it is! The creatures are truly nightmarish and well designed, which makes sense when you realize that Stan Winston created them. Huge hulking beasts with chainguns on their backs, scuttling abominations bristling with glowing hypodermics, and Slayers: foul, screeching horrors that have long knifes in lieu of arms and legs who attack from all angles, including scurrying up to the ceiling and dropping down to decapitate or eviscerate. It's pretty intense when you're surrounded by the aforementioned creeps and commence to blow them away while you run for your life. Torque is caked in blood and guts after each encounter, which adds to the eerie atmosphere and stomach churning terror. In addition, you'll find dead prisoners and guards everywhere you go, and it's obvious by the pools of blood and missing body parts that they didn't die peacefully in their sleep. You'll also encounter ghosts of long dead prisoners, as well as hallucinations that will have you questioning your sanity. The first time that creepy little girl ran by me crooning "You can't catch me." I almost lost it (well it was 2am, and I did have all the lights out). In every detail, this game simply drips with atmosphere.
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