X360A's 12 Games of Christmas 2011
Written Sunday, December 18, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Forget jingling bells and decking the halls, this Xmas all we want to do is play games. We don't want you thinking that this is just some arbitrary list we've cobbled together as a Xmas feature. There's been a lot of careful thought that's gone into this here 12 Games of Xmas, with back and forth chats going on for weeks before we settled upon a final selection that ticked all of the boxes for what this article should be. Last year saw a little bit of confusion, with some thinking that this was our Game of the Year list, but it isn't.
To reiterate, this is not our Game of the Year list, you’ll have to wait till New Year’s Eve for that! Our 12 Games of Xmas is our buyers guide to help you through the tough holiday season. These are some of the year's finest games, all available on a budget to make the harsh winter months that little more bearable, with some titles you might not have necessarily thought of as a Xmas purchase, or indeed a gift for that special someone. We'll try and add some tenuous reasons as to why these games tie-in with Xmas too, just to make the list that little more seasonal, and air some of our grievances that we have at this time of year too while we're at it. Bah humbug and so forth.
Instead of turtle doves, gold rings and lords-a-leaping (and shite television), this year we want these:
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Why not visit the ghost of Xmas future this holiday season? While he doesn't exactly strike us as the festive type, a spell with Adam Jensen might be exactly what you're looking for, as you essentially buy gifts for the technologically augmented badass from Sarif Industries to make him faster, stronger, better... more than just a mere man. So, while you're cramming Xmas goose, chicken, fish, ham, turkey or whatever your yuletide meat of choice happens to be down your gullet, you can at least improve someone else in-game, as your own health goes south.
Don't feel bad about it though. It's Xmas! Deus Ex: Human Revolution is currently knocking about for around £10-£15, and as one of the best games this year, it's an essential title to have in your collection. Not only is it a solid, well put together shooter, but it also raises chin-stroking philosophical questions as you unravel the conspiracy at the heart of Human Revolution. And if that doesn't get tongues wagging over Xmas dinner, we don't know what will. Here's a question to get you started: would you rather have turkey legs to stand on or chicken wings for arms?
The snowy fjords of Norway are calling! Get those chains on your tyres and churn up that white stuff, as you blaze a trail through Santa's grotto (it could be!), passing a blur of lovely pine trees as you go. If you like to enjoy your holiday season at a breakneck pace, then look no further than DiRT 3, as not only is it packed chock-full of snowy rally and Land Rush tracks to tackle, but it's also one of the year's best racing titles and it's now available on the cheap just about everywhere. It's for that reason alone that it belongs on your Xmas list, or at least warrants a post-holiday purchase with whatever money you happen to receive from family or friends, if any.
Sure, the Gymkhana bits might not be to everyone's tastes, but this is still rallying at its finest, offering a wealth of events from your common or garden point-to-point rally driving against the clock, all the way to the reckless abandon of razzing around the Battersea Power Station in London. If you've been good this year, you'll be lucky to find a big old lump of DiRT in your stocking. Plus, you can almost certainly drive these machines after a night on the ol’ eggnog.
Nothing says 'Xmas' more than a lone trawl through dank castles and dungeons inhabited by evil skeletal hordes and all manner of freakish monstrosities. Welcome to Dark Souls. Undoubtedly the year's hardest game, Dark Souls is nonetheless one of the most rewarding too and nothing (NOTHING) is more welcome than the warm glow of a beacon fire, where your adventurer can rest and earn a checkpoint. It's almost like sitting around the twinkling embers of an open fire in the old homestead with the family, except we're guessing that in real life you haven't spent time before that battling demonic creatures and undead knights. We might be wrong.
For that extra festive feeling, you'll be wanting to visit the Darkroot Garden, where there's ethereal glowing shrubs and more than a little magic in the air. That is until you're am-'bushed' (see what we did there) by whip-armed tree men and lashing tree snakes. Oh, and a gigantic neon butterfly. Dark Souls will kick your ass and you'll like it. Merry effing Xmas!
This is arguably the anti-Dark Souls, offering bright and breezy on-rails fun that on paper shouldn't be nearly as entertaining as it is. You're the star of your very own live theatre-bound puppet show, in which you play as the titular undead cowboy protagonist, gunning down bad guy marionettes and other makeshift creations on a journey to exact revenge upon the rogues who double crossed you.
A seamless blend of in-game and live action audience reaction, The Gunstringer will easily be the best pantomime you'll see this holiday season, and there's not a single washed-up celebrity in sight, which counts as a win in our book. Enjoyable in co-op, The Gunstringer is an uncomplicated Kinect romp that'll see you happily whiling away a few hours as you tear through its fun story blasting all and sundry. It comes with Fruit Ninja Kinect in the box too, which is pretty damn juicy, and it’s available for budget price. Oh no they didn’t! Oh yes they did!
Saints Row: The Third
Xmas is a time for giving, for fun and frolics, celebration, and... punches to the chestnuts. Enter Saints Row: The Third, offering easily the most fun you'll have this holiday once you've endured the rigmarole of Xmas dinner with grandpa's racist slurs, dry, cardboard turkey and a moustache comb set or deck of really tiny playing cards failing to make those stupid cracker jokes any funnier. Whose job is it to write those? (No, I don't write them).
No doubt after all that you'll be wanting some real levity, so surely a sojourn to Steelport is the best and only recourse. Try swinging the big purple penetrator or punching a pedestrian across the street with the Apoca-fists without raising a smile. And no doubt your parents or legal guardians will massively approve of you playing it on the TV in the lounge for all to see and share with you. Saints Row: The Third is raucous, unhinged madness, and who doesn't want that at Xmas?
Dance Central 2
Last year, we recommended Dance Central for getting the family up off their arses and partying, to work off the excessive starch-heavy yuletide food they've consumed, and we're doing the same thing again this year, except with Dance Central 2 instead.
Again, we'll point out the dangers of playing Harmonix's funkfest on a stomach full of sherry or beers – you don't want to end a perfect run on “This Is How We Do It” only to puke and slip over in the vomity mess – and remind you that copious Xmas Pudding and vigorous dancing doesn't mix and never will.
There's more to Dance Central 2 though, as this time you can go co-op and settle scores the old-skool way. You need never have an unresolved Xmas dispute ever again! Dance off!
Driver: San Francisco
Right. This is going to be difficult to tie into Xmas in any way, shape or form, so we'll merely extol the virtues of Driver: San Francisco as a great game that some of you might have overlooked this year. We've said it countless times, but we'll say it again anyway: forget all about the silliness of the 'Shift' system. Driver: SF is simple, undiluted fun on a bun, featuring wilfully daft scenarios in which Tanner finds himself inhabiting the bodies of various drivers around the titular city.
Not only is Driver: SF a solid driving and action title then, but it's also one of the finest comedies gaming has produced, second only to stone-cold classics like Monkey Island for chuckles. Admittedly, that's probably pushing it a bit, but along with Saints Row: The Third, Driver: SF will manage to keep you laughing through the cold winter months, even after all of the presents have been handed out and unwrapped in a fit of momentary mania.
There's not really any need to explain the inherent charm of Rayman Origins, is there? Beautifully hand-drawn and animated using the UbiART Framework, it's a masterclass in retro platform gaming, packed full of colour and character with masses of content to unlock and loads of levels to leap your way through.
Awesome in both single-player and four-player co-op, Rayman Origins is perfect for the whole family, enabling you to slap the snot out of one another, helping or hindering as you take on the game's deceptively challenging stages. For a Xmas vibe, get your game on with the icy levels and enjoy slipping and sliding around, falling into traps, turning into a bubble and floating around waiting to be revived. Rayman Origins is one of – if not the – best platforming game to be released this year, and therefore worth snapping up for Xmas. You'll thank us.
Dead Space 2
For some, the holiday season can be pure psychological horror all by itself, but if you like the idea of entering your own nightmare before Christmas, then Dead Space 2 is definitely the way to go. Returning 'hero' Isaac Clarke finds himself stuck slap-bang in the middle of another outbreak of Necromorphs, as he's continually haunted by visions and feels his sanity slowly ebb away. After your 200th mince pie with brandy butter (vile stuff), you might feel the same way too.
Granted, Dead Space 2 is about as far away from Xmas cheer as you can get, but if you're having a rotten one, then perhaps it'll help you to put things into perspective. At least you're not trapped on a mining station orbiting Saturn having to impale and dismember hostile alien hordes, while risking having your face sucked clean off your skull. We're sure Isaac wouldn't mind unwrapping another itchy woolly jumper in the comfort of his own home instead of carving up aliens with a plasma cutter. Then again, maybe he is better off with the Necromorphs, come to think of it.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
If you're beginning to sense a family feud brewing this Xmas, then fire up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and solve it the easy way, with a definitive tag-team battle between some of Marvel's best-known superheroes and villains, and some of Capcom's most memorable characters. Let the retina-burning colours and pyrotechnics wash over you and send you into a hypnotic trance, as your reasons for starting an argument slowly melt away like the snow on Tron Bonne's backdrop.
Yes, you could say that it's a cynical re-hashing of an already perfectly fine fighting game and an easy buck for Capcom – and to a degree it is - but then Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is also brilliant, featuring 12 new characters, fresh modes, some balancing tweaks and free DLC introducing the Heroes and Heralds mode in which you can play as Galactus, all for a budget price. And to be perfectly honest, we'd rather eat planets than nasty-ass fig and sultana-filled Christmas cake any day. Bleurgh.
Guns, guns, guns and oh look, more guns. Bulletstorm is the year's maddest FPS, with one of the best arsenals of weaponry around, from the standard leash for lassoing enemies to the explosive power of the Bouncer, every violent whim is catered for. Even your boot is a deadly weapon, able to send bad guys flying into spikes or cactus spines. Think of them as evil Xmas trees, and you're laughing.
Combine all of these weapons at your disposal and you can really start racking up those combos, as you get creative and kill with skill, earning big points while you're at it. So, whether you decide to eviscerate your enemies with the flail gun or deck their balls with a well-aimed nut shot, Bulletstorm will effortlessly entertain you for hours. Then there's the awesome fun of co-op Anarchy and the killstreaking mayhem of the Echoes mode. Bulletstorm is an indispensable shooter and an ideal Xmas gift, ensuring you'll be giving it both barrels before the year is out. Kaboom.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
With 10 million copies already shipped, there's a good chance that you might have already played Skyrim, but we just couldn't resist including it by virtue of its majestic snowy climes and glittering evergreen forests. The home of the Nords is a gorgeous, eternal winter wonderland, evoking the magic of Xmas with its shimmering aurora borealis and traditional holiday mammoths. Visit the Throat of the World, Windhelm or Winterhold for that optimum Xmas feeling, then why not go on a killing spree and get jailed to ruin it all?
Or if you really want to celebrate, you could go and get hitched, buy a house and sit by an open fire, cook yourself a delicious Xmas meal (or have your spouse cook it for you) and then go slay a dragon, slaughter a mammoth or piss off a giant just for the hell of it. Skyrim is your oyster, and as it's on sale at most retailers right now, it truly is the biggest bargain money can buy, promising hundreds of hours of adventuring for your buck.
Now, we're off to pick a fight with a frost troll. The gits...
There you have it then. Our 12 Games of Xmas for you to consider and a list with a hell of a lot of diversity and value, meaning there’s something for everyone. With only a week left before the big day arrives and Santa empties his sack down our chimney, you could certainly do a lot worse than that there top 12.
Bear in mind that there's our Game of the Year awards still to look forward to and some other Xmas articles to keep your eyes peeled for too, but for now we hope you enjoyed our 12 Games of Xmas. Merry Christmas, everyone!