Top 10 Brilliant Games You Might Have Missed This Generation
Written Friday, October 18, 2013 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
The end is nigh. As the Xbox 360 nears the end of its tenure as Microsoft’s leading console, X360A is remembering some of this generation’s highlights. So, in the run up to the launch of the Xbox One, we’ll be publishing features that celebrate the very best the current-gen console has to offer.
We kick things off with a list of games that you might have missed, games that for one reason or another may never have made it into your disc tray. Perhaps they received middling reviews or just didn’t sell very well, maybe even both. Either way, they’re knocking around in a bargain bin somewhere and they deserve your attention.
So here it is then, our Top 10 Brilliant Games You Might Have Missed This Generation
In 2010, Metro 2033 emerged to sit alongside The Witcher and Stalker as part of a new breed of Eastern European title that looked and felt quite unlike anything else. The Witcher was unmistakably Polish and Stalker reflected the horrors of a region affected by the Chernobyl disaster, but it was Metro 2033 that explored what life might be like for millions of Russians following a nuclear attack.
Dripping with grime and gasping for breath, it’s a choked, claustrophobic shooter set in and around the dank, radiation-filled tunnels of the Russian underground system. Less slick but nevertheless superior to last year’s compromised sequel, Metro 2033 is a masterful piece of world building and an experience that should be experienced by everyone with a taste for something a little different.
There was a spell where Platinum games could do no wrong, critically. The Shinji Mikami led studio released a string of action classics in quick succession between 2010 and 2012, clearly enjoying the freedom offered as part of its deal with publisher SEGA. Of these games, Bayonetta is the best.
It's nuts, as you might expect, following the adventures of the titular, leather-clad, bespectacled heroine as she leapt, blasted, whipped her self-aware hair back and forth and just generally kicked ass in a bizarre world populated by angels and monsters. Frenetic, bombastic and certain to leave you smiling like a loon, Bayonetta is great. Like much of Platinum's previous content, however, it failed to do the business in stores.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Nobody expected Castlevania: Lords of Shadow to be great. By 2010 the once towering series had dipped in both quality and popularity, and athough Konami had commissioned a reboot, even the publisher wasn’t sure if it should bear the Castlevania name.
Under the watch of new studio Mercury Steam and with a little help from Hideo Kojima, however, Lords of Shadow was exactly what the flagging franchise needed. With combat as sharp as a whip crack, hulking bosses and an expansive campaign, it made Castlevania vital again without setting the charts alight. Get on it quick before the sequel hits early next year, you won't regret it.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
With a couple of notable exceptions the Wild West remains a relatively untapped space in video games, despite having all the ingredients for success. There’s gun fights, lawless towns, the gold rush, cowboys and indians, the civil war, dramatic scenery - everything you need to tell a decent story and enjoy some great shoot outs along the way.
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood may not have set the world alight, and in terms of accolades will always exist in the shadow of Red Dead Redemption, but it’s a straight shooting joy, tracing the origins of the fire and brimstone preacher Reverend Ray while dishing out some enjoyably old-school, Call of Duty-esque gunslinging. Neither sophisticated nor inventive, it sure is fun. A true under-appreciated gem.
In Vanquish you can slide on your knees through the legs of a skyscraper-sized robot, turn around, blast it with heat-seeking missiles then sit back as it explodes into a million pieces while you smoke a cigarette. And what’s more there’s an actual button for cigarette smoking. That’s worth a few quid of your money alone.
Alas, however, Vanquish didn’t sell particularly well, probably due to the fact it was short and didn’t have a multiplayer mode. Regardless, there’s more fun squeezed into its 6 hour campaign than in scores of its bloated, collectible-strewn competitors. It’s a ludicrously over-the-top, action-packed hand grenade of a game that’ll have you cackling like a loon. Hunt it down immediately.
Alpha Protocol looks like ass. Its characters are wooden, its animations are stilted and its environments are dull. It also has crappy enemy AI, more bugs than than the NSA and a defiantly old-fashioned approach to combat. But you know what? We don't care, 'cos we bloody love it anyway.
Obsidian’s action-RPG offers an amazing amount of choice over the way your adventure pans out, it’s a kind of pre-Deus Ex: Human Revolution fashion without all the bells and whistles. You can either invest your XP in super sneaky stealth or beef up your combat skills and weapons and go in blasting. Throw in some brilliant executed, choice-based dialogue wheels and Alpha Protocol asserts itself as a true cult classic. One for the gamer that prefers depth over surface sheen.
There was a time when Microsoft was desperate to attract Japanese games to the Xbox 360, partly to challenge the console’s reputation as a shooter machine, but also to lure in Japanese punters loyal to the PlayStation brand. Securing a couple of exclusives from Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi was a large part of this, in the form of the JRPGs Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.
Neither took off either commercially or critically, but to our mind Lost Odyssey remains one of the best JRPGs on the system, an unashamedly old-school love letter to the genre, with a great story of memory loss and double-crossing, a brilliant turn-based combat system and the kind of world and characters that could only originate in the Land of the Rising Sun. They simply don’t make them like this anymore.
On paper, Binary Domain isn’t the most novel of propositions, which perhaps explains why it didn’t sell particularly well. It’s a cover-based shooter (yeah?), set in a sci-fi universe (so what?), with a gruff, shaven-headed military dude (again?), in which your enemies are robots (zzzzzzzz). It has all been done about 8 gazillion times before. Yet somehow, despite this, Binary Domain is wonderfully enjoyable.
A lot of the game’s pluses come from the quality of the chunky, satisfying shooting, which is accentuated by the way your robotic enemies disintegrate under fire. They splinter into shards of metal, their limbs fly off and nothing, other than utter destruction, can keep them from hopping and crawling towards you. Wonderfully paced and populated by some quirky characters, Binary Domain is far more than the sum of its parts.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Despite the fact that Condemned: Criminal Origins hit alongside the European launch of the Xbox 360 back in December 2005, you’d still be hard pressed to find a more grim, gory, thoroughly depressing experience on the console all these years later. And we mean that in a good way.
You play Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent on a mission to track down the man that framed him for murder. You achieve this, mostly, by creeping around condemned buildings in the dark, clunking tramps over the head with lead pipes and slowly losing your mind. The word visceral is overused ny the gaming press, but here it’s perfect. You can feel every painful crack in this predominately melee-based game. Utterly unique.
If Vanquish is a “ludicrously over-the-top, action-packed hand grenade of a game,” then Bulletstorm is a nuclear bomb of entertaining stupidity. Insanely, relentlessly playful, People Can Fly’s bonkers shooter isn’t interested in subtlety or nuance, it just wants to slide-kick you in the face with fun.
It’s as creative with its kills as it is with its language, encouraging players to use weapons and environmental objects in novel ways to maim, impale, explode and otherwise eviscerate enemies. In a world of comparatively dull beige man shooters, it stood out as a riot of colour and curse words, but failed to do the business in stores. We’re not exactly sure why, but we take solace in the fact that it coined the word “Dicktits”. Which is a good thing... right?