Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SPC Quickies - Volume Five: 360 Blockbuster

It's time for another big blockbuster of Quickie reviews. This time around we're going to be exploring the 360 catalog. As always, the following games are those in my personal collection of titles. We'll be ranking these games on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best. Let's jump in and get this blockbuster busted!

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
- Banjo and Kazooie took a long vacation since Tooie and their GBA side-story. They came back not in a platforming adventure but in a vehicle-based game. The goal was the same, however-- collect as many Jiggies from challenges as possible. The creation of vehicles was a blast to do even if the challenge variety wasn't as large as the endless amount of vehicle types you could make. While not Banjo-Threeie, Nuts & Bolts came off as a competent and very entertaining game. 4/5

Beautiful Katamari - Roll without the changes in Beautiful Katamari. It's really just more of the same, so if you're looking for innovation in this franchise, you've come to the wrong place. The goal here is the same: roll up as much as possible with your Katamari ball. When you roll up enough, the ball with grow bigger, allowing you access to new areas of each level. Roll your ball up to the specified size, and you win. The problem with the 360 sticks is that they're not parallel making speeding up your Katamari by cycling the sticks back and forth a problem. 3/5

Bioshock - A game oozing with ambiance and atmosphere, Bioshock is a beautiful-looking game. The underwater city of Rapture is remarkable to look at, and the story keeps you guessing right until the very end. The first-person action and shooting is different from other 360 shooters. It's all solo. No multi-player to be found. Eco-chambers make dying less frustrating than it otherwise would be, and going back to visuals, the game is not only mesmerizing but jaw-dropping in the visual department. 4/5

Blue Dragon - The first project from Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, since his departure from Square-Enix to form his own studio, Mistwalker, Blue Dragon is a colorful RPG with clever characters and an interesting art style. The music is done by Nobuo Uematsu, also of Final Fantasy fame. For those looking for another RPG to put under the tree this Christmas, Blue Dragon is a great and cheap pick. 4/5

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - Play as a member of the U.S. Marines as well as a British Special Ops in Modern Warfare. You switch in between the two as you progress through the game, attempting to take down a dictator with real live nukes. The single-player levels are highly memorable, the multi-player allows you to unlock new weapons and perks as you gain experience levels, and the presentation is one of the best period. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is definitely one of the best games this generation. 5/5

Crackdown - The premise of Crackdown was simple. It was a sandbox game where the goal was to eliminate each of the three main islands' gang leaders. The surprise twist at the end was more than enough to salvage the otherwise weak story. Driving cars, scaling up tall buildings, using rocket launchers and machine guns as you take down bad guys (and good). Crackdown was a fantastically fun game, and I eagerly await the sequel. 4/5

Dead Rising - Dead Rising gives you the role of Frank West, freelance journalist in for the scoop of his life. The local town has become infested with flesh-craving zombies. Dead Rising features an arsenal of unconventional weapons from lawn mowers to frying pans to more useful weaponry such as chainsaws, machine guns, and shotguns. Some caveats to this game are the save system that takes getting used to as well as the sometimes clumsy controls and braindead A.I. Regardless of these problems, Dead Rising remains one of my favorite 360 games. 4/5

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam - This was my first Dynasty Warriors game, and by the end it was a real grind. Other than that, the game was nice, repetitive fun. Being able to control a Gundam, slice through a wave of enemies, and fly around at fast speeds on land and in air were very enjoyable. The ability to play through the various pilots' campaigns locally with a friend (or in this case brother) really kept things from growing too dull. 4/5

Eternal Sonata - This music-themed RPG features a soundtrack composed by Motoi Sakuraba of Star Ocean and Tales Of fame. Unlike Blue Dragon, Eternal Sonata showcases an active time battle system including real-time fighting. I honestly prefer a battle system like this compared to something like a traditional Final Fantasy, but both work well. It's just a matter of preference. With sensational visuals and a pleasing story, Eternal Sonata is a remarkable RPG regardless on which HD platform you get it on. 4/5

Forza Motorsport 2 - Gentlemen, start your engines! Forza Motorsport 2 is the first edition on the 360, and it has tons of variety be it in car or track selection. You can either make five-hundred different left turns on an oval track or race on a more complicated street track. Forza Motorsport 2 also looks absolutely astonishing. The game holds up well even with its new sequel now out. For a racing experience that nearly eclipses Gran Turismo, check out Forza 2. 4/5

Gears of War - If I were a man-child, this would be the game I'd make. It's a compilation of blood, gore, guns with chainsaws attached to them, squad-based gameplay, giant monstrosities known as the Locust, big steroid-crazed marines with bulging muscles, and cover mechanics. And it's pretty darned fun, too. The multi-player was recently fixed otherwise this game wouldn't be getting such high marks. There were cheaters and exploiters all around. Thankfully Epic Games cleaned up their act. Now about Gears 2... 4/5

Grand Theft Auto IV - GTA IV takes a more realistic approach to the franchise. There's no wacky jet-packs or anything like that. The city is more of an interesting character than the actual "I don't want to kill people but I do for fun anyway" contradiction of a main character. The story is an interesting one (though not oscar-quality), and it will have hooked for most of the game. There's some parts of the saga that drag on, but really GTA IV is an intriguing installment of this excellent series. 4/5

Halo 3 - Shooters are very popular on the Xbox 360. They're also very popular with Microsoft who generally pumps one out every year as their big game. Regardless, Halo 3 is my favorite of these from Microsoft. It had terrific weaponry, great level design, awesome multi-player action, and plenty of people to "pwn"-- as the kids say. Play the single-play campaign alone or with up to four friends shooting and blasting through the game together. A wonderful game marred only by a crappy matchmaking system in multi-player, and some drawn out levels. 4/5

Kameo: Elements of Power - This adventure game is similar to Zelda in design. It doesn't come close to the fabled franchise, but it's an admirable effort nonetheless. Kameo, the titular hero, can transform into one of many monsters from the punching Pummel Weed to a fiery dragon that will toast its enemies with a hot coat of flames. The soundtrack is a beautiful mix of orchestral and choral music, and the visuals are still impressive to this day-- but a tad dated. Those looking for an experience rare to the 360, check out the launch title, Kameo: Elements of Power. 4/5

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy - Don't get cocky, kid. Lego Star Wars II was my first installment in the franchise, so comments such as it felt the same were lost on someone like me. The game brought with it action-platforming as well as puzzle-solving-- not to mention rampant Lego stud collecting! The game took you through all three of the original trilogy's stories taking you through about fifteen levels total. For something that's accessible and fun for everyone in your family, you can't beat Lego Star Wars II. 4/5

The Orange Box - Take five unique games: Half Life 2, Episode One, Episode Two, the puzzle-based portal, and the multi-player centric Team Fortress 2, and you have one heck of a collection on your hands. To this day this impressive compendium of Valve efforts has really yet to be beat. Feel like a story-based affair? Try out one of the Half-Life 2 episodes. Feel like "pwning n00bs" as the kids say? Check out Team Fortress 2 to satisfy your cravings. No matter what you like, The Orange Box has a game for you! 5/5

Perfect Dark Zero - A lot of people shoot down this game with their Mag-secs, but I happen to love this game. Yes, the art style is goofy and unappealing for the most part, and yes, the game is a poor follow-up to Perfect Dark, but what game wouldn't be? The objective-based single-player mode was here with online or local co-op, the multi-player is some of the 360's best with over a dozen players or bots on each map at a given time, and the music was rocking and pumping. Overall, a great but imperfect game. 4/5

Phantasy Star Universe - After playing Phantasy Star Online, I was absolutely psyched to play an all-new Phantasy Star Online entry. What we got instead was a half-assed online sequel with a tremendously tedious single-player story. This made the already repetitive task of running through dungeons-- something that was fun in past games-- all the more boring and ridiculous to you. No, thanks, Sonic Team. 2/5

Saints Row - Volition Games' answer to GTA III, Saints Row is all about juvenile antics and the thug life. You can customize you character to wear anything you'd like-- just as long as you pay for it, yeah? Starting police chases, setting fires and explosions throughout Stilwater, the city's yours for the taking. If it weren't for the lame True Skill system to rank players in the game's entertaining multi-player modes, this game would be close to perfect. 4/5

Saints Row 2 - Saints Row 2 takes what made the original Saints fun, continues the story, and adds even more outlandish events. The put-your-body-on-the-line Insurance Fraud is back, and now this and every event and mission can be played with a friend online. There's also new distractions, too, such as the ability to shoot raw sewage at nice houses to lower the property value of the area. The perfect plan! Add in awesome multi-player action, and you have a better version of Saints Row-- even better than GTA IV in my opinion. 4/5

SEGA Superstars Tennis - Sonic and friends take to the court in SEGA Superstars Tennis. It's an easy game at first with a challenge mode taking you on different themed courts unlocking new characters such as Alex Kidd and Gum from Jet Grind Radio. There's also online play thrown in for the HD versions featuring some fast and frenetic gameplay with little in the way of slowdown. The real problem with the game is the bare bones presentation and lack of extra options. 3/5

Sonic the Hedgehog - It sucks. 1/5

Sonic Unleashed - Sonic returns, and this time it's part 2-D part 3-D. The early levels are fantastic displays of the old Sonic we know and love, but adding in the Werehog was a clumsy decision at best. He plays all right when the camera allows him to, but his levels drag on far too long and slow the game's pacing down to a crawl. The later Sonic stages are full of cheap holes, obstacles, and camera problems. Overall, this is barely an average game. 3/5

Tales of Vesperia - The Tales series hits Microsoft's tampon-shaped box for the first time, and it did so with style. With a less annoying ensemble of characters, better map system, and even more excellent combat than Symphonia, Vesperia is an awesome edition to any Xbox 360 owner's collection. If you liked Eternal Sonata, you will absolutely adore Vesperia. And even if you didn't, you will absolutely adore Vesperia. 4/5

Tony Hawk's American Wasteland - My final love in the Tony Hawk franchise, American Wasteland gave you a sandbox city to explore with multiple areas featuring different treacherous skating locations. The story took you as a young skateboarder interested in making it to the big time in the L.A. skate scene. And then the fun begins! Still more focused on the more interesting arcade-style gameplay than the realistic skating physics later Tony Hawk games would use, American Skateland was my last truly loved Tony Hawk game. 4/5

Tony Hawk's Project 8 - In making the series more realistic most likely due to the then upcoming Skate, the series lost a lot of its fun luster. What used to be a heavily accessible series turned into something frustrating and less enjoyable. The game was again sandbox with multiple areas of an unnamed town. You completed challenges to unlock the next portion of the story. While still a good game, it signals the start of the downward spiral of the franchise leading to the abysmal Tony Hawk Ride. 3/5

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007 - Wrestling was a passion of mine as a kid. As I grew up and as the WWE got more tame and restrictive, I grew out of it. The game uses the sticks to grapple which I already dislike. There's a myriad of match types and online play included, but that doesn't matter if the core gameplay isn't appealing which with this wrasslin' game it isn't. How I dream of a game that can match WWF No Mercy or Day of Reckoning! 2/5

Viva Pinata - Viva Pinata is an interesting specimen. The goal is to expand your garden, allowing new pinatas to come to your garden, and hopefully breed as many different pinata species as possible. Ah, the life of a gardener! A bright, cheery, gorgeous game, it definitely has that Rare feel to it-- something that has been missing from previous games by Rare since their acquisition by Microsoft. For a fun time for the whole family, check out this underrated gem in the Xbox 360 library. 4/5

Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise - Looks like trouble in paradise! Viva Pinata 2 brings in more pinatas to raise, more tools to utilize, and more garden varieties including an icy wonderland. The formula essentially remains unchanged: expand your garden, invite new pinatas to your garden by fulfilling certain conditions, and keep %#%in' that chicken! One of those doesn't belong. You can guess which! Overall, Trouble in Paradise makes for a great sequel even if it doesn't do too much new to the franchise. 4/5

That does it for another edition of the Quickies. See you next time!


coffeewithgames said...

"...the multi-player is some of the 360's best with over a dozen players or bots on each map at a given time, and the music was rocking and pumping. Overall, a great but imperfect game."

The multi-player in this game would LAG horrendously at times. I definitely see how people might have been upset if they paid $60 for this game brand new.

Unknown said...

I've not seen it do that unless it was when the game launched.

My bro and I love offline multiplayer the most.

coffeewithgames said...

Yea, I was talking about the offline multi-player, not online. A friend came and stayed with us for about 2 weeks back in February/March and bought this game for I think $10 at Wal-Mart. We played the local multi-player, and it would lag horrendously at times. We both laughed about it, and he said, "I can see why it was $10."

We didn't try the game online.