X360A's 12 Games Of Christmas
Written Monday, December 13, 2010 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
You can keep your French hens, turtle doves, gold rings and partridges in pear trees. All we want for Christmas is games, and lots of them. This is our pick of the bunch to go under the tree this year then, taking for granted that you'll have probably already bought the biggest games of the year. So Mass Effect 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Halo: Reach, Red Dead Redemption, they're all too obvious and let's face it, they belong in a different article. [Ed: *cough* Game of the Year awards *cough*]
Some of the games on this list are massive blockbusters that tore up the charts upon their initial release, while others are underrated gems and a few have the family in mind for the festive season. This isn't a top 12 games of the year by any means, but rather what ought to be on your definitive Christmas wish list. It's also an indispensable survival guide for the holidays, to make coping with spending extended periods with the family that little more bearable. So, without further ado, with 12 days till Chrstimas to go, here are our 12 games of Christmas, in no particular order.
Altogether now... "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeeeee!"
Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition
A massive chunk of game to start you off, Dragon Age: Origins is a hefty tale on its lonesome, so picking up the Ultimate Edition with every DLC chapter on a shiny second disc for about £30 represents outstanding value for money. BioWare's other major RPG franchise definitely deserves a look if you haven't already embarked upon its epic adventure, and if you haven't already splashed out on last year's vanilla version bereft of the generous DLC disc, then now's your chance.
Gloriously bloody and boasting more hours of gameplay than most games on the market, Dragon Age: Origins – Ultimate Edition is a nigh on essential purchase for Christmas 2010. And besides, with Dragon Age II just around the corner in March 2011, don't you want to know what happens to Ferelden and how its brave people coped with the Blight, which in turn will lay the foundations for the impending sequel? Of course you do. Also, nothing else says Christmas like a cold sword in the guts.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Hack and slash of a different ilk now with Mercury Steam's largely overlooked Gothic action title, which took a hallowed retro classic and transformed it into one of the most evocative and beautiful games we've played in some time. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow ticks all of the boxes; offering an engaging narrative; vast, sweeping vistas; fast immediate action; massive boss battles; and sublime gameplay. Some of the platforming sections might be a little frustrating, but apart from that slight niggle, the rest of the game is pretty superb.
Add to that a mind-blowing ending that'll linger long in the memory and have you screaming out for a sequel, and you have one of the year's best action games that deserved to perform so much better. This Christmas, you can buy it on the cheap (it's a steal at around £20 at the moment) and enjoy a battle with the Ice Titan boss for a real wintry, Yuletide vibe.
Now here's a game that needs no introduction. EA Canada continued its domination of the football genre this year, pummelling PES 2011 into submission despite its best efforts at a complete overhaul. FIFA 10 was pretty great, FIFA 11 is just straight up great, building upon the solid foundations laid by the series from 08 onwards, refining where necessary, tightening up the gameplay on the pitch and streamlining the modes off the pitch. Be A Goalkeeper let you slip on the gloves of a net minder, shimmying around the box, staying vigilant for incoming shots, sudden counter attacks and crafty lobs, which was a nice change of pace. Introducing the goalie also allowed for eleven-a-side teams online for the first time, meaning proper full-sized footie with every player performing their role on the pitch. This Christmas, why not set the weather to snow and play a special Chrimbo match?
Is “soccer” not your bag? Then may we recommend the superlative NBA 2K11, which for our money is the definitive basketball game and worth grabbing simply for the inclusion of His Airness, Michael Jordan.
No Christmas list would be complete without something for the family, whoever that might be. Aunties, uncles, grandparents, mums, dads, siblings; they'll all get up and prance around like a nutter to play Kinect Sports and frankly, if you do happen to own Kinect, then it's essential fare for getting non-gamers involved in having a go at playing that Xbox 360 thing they've been reading about in the tabloid press. Who knows, maybe they'll see that a games console isn't the corrupting, evil influence they might think it is. It doesn't have to be a strenuous workout either. Bowling is simple enough for everyone to play, without having to work up a sweat, while some of the small track and field events require only a small burst of activity. Stick Kinect Sports on and watch the laughter ensue.
This is something that'll shift that excess holiday weight in double quick time. Stuff yourself full of turkey, goose, fish, chimp, sprouts, chocolate; whatever you like this Christmas, because you'll be able to boogie it all away on Dance Central in no time. Harmonix has really outdone itself with its Kinect-powered groovefest, garnering glowing reviews for its intuitive body-popping gameplay that's easy to pick up and difficult to master. It'll have you working up a sweat in the blink of an eye and burning those calories, that's for sure, but just don't play it on a full stomach or while drunk. That could get really messy. Dance Central is not only fun and great as a swift workout, it's also perfect for forging heated dance-off competition between family members. So, throw shapes and then perhaps add Your Shape: Fitness Evolved for increased blubber-burning efficacy. Funky.
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
We're not exaggerating when we say that Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is one of the finest racers we've had the pleasure of playing in some time. It's Criterion's Burnout taken to the Nth degree, striking a perfect balance with impeccably rendered licensed supercars, blinding speed and visuals to die for. It's pure arcade racing at its very best and the titular Hot Pursuit events in both the career and online modes will keep you coming back for more.
The game's social networking Autolog, which is the beating heart of the game's competitive spirit, will help foster a community amongst your friends where you're constantly trying to outdo one another's best times. Screw all of that 'goodwill to all men' crap this year and nitro boost your way to the top of the ‘Speedwall’ and upset your entire friends list as your own Christmas gift to all your mates.
Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare
Zombies in games is a slightly contentious and divisive issue these days, as more and more games look to the shambling undead as their antagonist du jour. But one fundamental truth remains that will ensure that zombies remain the connoisseur's cannon fodder of choice: they're fun to shoot and always will be. Rockstar clearly understand this, so looked to populate Red Dead Redemption's frontiers with hordes of ravenous brain-chompers for the game's first story-driven expansion, which places John Marston at the centre of an alternate yarn that has no bearing on the overall Red Dead narrative.
The premise transforms Red Dead Redemption into one of the best shooting galleries you'll find on a game disc and when you factor in the wealth of additional multiplayer content (all of it) bundled into the standalone Undead Nightmare package – including the brilliant Undead Overrun co-op mode – then this stands out as a devilishly grim Christmas treat. Just make sure granny leaves the room when you play it.
Fallout: New Vegas
While wandering the wastelands of Fallout: New Vegas might not be everyone's idea of Christmas fun, there's a lot to be said for using VATS for letting out the frustrations of getting knitted socks or a T-shirt with your nan's face on it for the tenth year in a row. Hit the right bumper, zoom in, pick a body part (preferably the head), then plug away with a few bullets or a few laser blasts to watch the brains fly. Perfect stress relief guaranteed. It also helps that Fallout: New Vegas is a fantastic game, with a deeply involving story with more plot strands than a massive spider-web and multiple outcomes that'll have you playing factions off of one another, as you become either an idolised, benevolent hero or manipulative, Machiavellian little shit. The choice is yours.
The Sims 3
A potential exercise in wish fulfilment, The Sims 3 is the perfect antidote to having to spend time with family and friends. If they're really getting on your tits, build your very own Medieval torture chamber - with floral wallpaper, of course - create the aforementioned family and friends, lock them all in a room without doors, windows or toilets and watch them soil themselves continuously. Alternatively, you could always go for the old favourite of digging a swimming pool, chucking them in and then removing the steps. Thinking of the many ways you can inflict various torturous acts upon your virtual family could provide hours of fun, as long as you keep it to the game that is. Or if you can't play happy families at home, then perhaps you can try pretending in The Sims 3 by fashioning yourself a perfect life. Here's hoping you don't have to resort to that this Christmas, but if you do, go a little nuts.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
What Christmas would be complete without a good, wholesome shooter? None, that's what, and pound for pound, we'd say that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is the complete package for Christmas. If you really want that Christmassy feeling, get a game of Rush going on the White Pass map and have fun nestling in the snow in a white ghillie suit with a sniper rifle at the ready. If you're just after some frantic shooty action on the other hand, then why not invest in the BC2 Vietnam expansion, due to hit the Xbox Live Marketplace on December 21st for 1200 Microsoft Points? If you get Bad Company 2 in your stocking this year, you'll be in for a decent enough ride in single-player while it lasts and potentially infinite hours of multiplayer gameplay. Ask for the Ultimate Edition and get the Onslaught Mode and SPECACT upgrades as well... there’s achievements to be earned!
Rock Band 3
After Christmas dinner is done, dusted and working its way down your intestinal tract and into your bowels, why not let it fester there for a while as you hit Rock Band 3 and headbang to “Bohemian Rhapsody” with your sister screeching out her best Freddie Mercury impersonation, as you bash the drums, tickle the ivories or strum away on the bass or lead guitar. Enlist the whole family to the band and piss the neighbours off by playing the game as loud as you possibly can, as granddad falls asleep in his favourite chair, blissfully unaware that you're enjoying the very music he hates more than any other. No Christmas is complete without a good sing-song, so why not go one better by forming a whole band to make as much noise as humanly possible. See how many snowmen you can melt with the pure awesomeness of your rock.
Super Street Fighter IV
“Hadoken?” “I'm fine thanks,” says Ken. Ah, the old ones are the best, aren't they? It's no worse than the jokes you’ll find in your Christmas crackers anyway, and speaking of crackers, Super Street Fighter IV is a massive one. A cracker that is. How's that for a segue?
While mum's setting the Christmas pudding alight with a blue flame, you should be throwing blue flames of your own in SSFIV, which is not only the year's best one-on-one fighter, it's one of the best of all time, period. For that reason alone, you should really ask Santa to sort you out a copy of Super Street Fighter IV this Christmas if it's not already in your collection. What do you mean Santa isn't real? He iiiiiiiiiiissssss!!! Nooooooo!!!
So, there it is: twelve games to stomp your feet, scream, shout and hold your breath for. If you don't get all of the ones you want, kick up a huge stinking fuss and ruin everyone's Christmas day. That’s how it usually works, right? It's the only way your family will learn not to trifle with you when it comes to gifting video games, and next year you'll be showered with more gaming wonders than you could ever hope to play. Or you'll get turfed out of the house and never invited home for Christmas ever again. It's a risk/reward you'll have to weigh up yourself.
Finally, on a more serious note, we should also take a moment to remember what Christmas is really all about... getting as much stuff as possible, eating loads of food and playing more games than is healthy. Merry Christmas everyone and don’t forget to keep an eye out for our continued Christmas coverage as we get festive and stock up on the eggnog.