The Twelve Days of Xbox 360 Christmas
For the Seventh day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: Lara Croft in a tight bikini
Ok, so it's not really a tight bikini, but it is a pretty tight game. The new Tomb Raider manages to bring the franchise back towards some semblance of normality and ushers the game in the direction of Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider 2. With a lot of new tricks, a new graphics engine and for the first time motion-captured moves taken from at least three professional athletes Lara has never looked so good, or moved so good in any game incarnation. There are still some troubles with an annoying camera but Crystal (Soul Reaver) Dynamics have managed to pull out the stops to create a darker look at Lara's life and followed on from the events established in Legend and Anniversary. This is the perfect Christmas game for the Tomb Raider fan desperate to get their hands on more of Lara Croft. The locations are massive and the puzzles are pretty fiendish at times. The combat system is pretty solid and for the first time in a long time we actually cared about finishing a Tomb Raider game for once. There are numerous treasures to find and hunting for them will take you a while. This is the game to re-establish Lara Croft and her adventures as an iconic video game heroine.
On the Eighth day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: packed with flesh-eating zombies!
Valve Software has a habit of taking the best that the community and other developers have to offer and working with them, to spit, to polish and to shine their product. So it was in the case of Left4Dead when they teamed up with Turtle Rock studios and unleashed the zombie horde upon PC and 360 gamers recently. The 360 version has some concessions but it is still an amazing experience for the cooperatively orientated gamer. It sits on our Christmas list because it is an excellent team game, can be played split-screen on the same console with a friend and it has some of the most innovative FPS technology in a game yet. This is a game that's a must have for Christmas if you don't already own it. There's a massive amount of replay value in L4D and with the AI Director controlling zombie placement, sound effects, special effects and special panic events the game is different each time you play it. The level of teamwork and cooperation between the 4 survivors is only mirrored by the unique versus mode where the 4 human survivors can face off against 4 boss-infected players across 2 (of the game's 4) sprawling 5 mission campaigns. This round-based play is highly addictive and is bound to appeal to the casual and hardcore gamer in your household. This game is a highly recommended Christmas hit with new downloadable content on the way and the promise of more support from Valve. It is going to appeal to the fan of the horror genre and anything to do with zombies. If you don't have this, you need to get it for Christmas stat to prepare for the infection!
On the Ninth day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: chillin' in a crib with my homies.
Saints Row was a bit of a let down in some ways, yet in others it was a fresh take on the GTA SA style game (clone) that the game borrowed from. It was more a send-up of the game rather than a realistic look at gang life. Not as hated by Jack Thompson either. Now we move to this Christmas and the chances are that you already have GTA IV and are happy with that. If you are looking for something that's not as serious as Rockstar's blockbuster title then you really need to take a peek at Saints Row 2. This is the game that has redefined the gang-games for us. dapsycho and I are big fans of THQ and Volition's game and the cooperative multiplayer is some of the best fun to be had in a game of this type. It smokes the competition in that respect since it allows a full cooperative play through the whole of the game's story, it's built around a souped-up game engine and many of the problems of the first have been kerbstomped into the ground. It's going to be the perfect game for Christmas since it has a star-studded cast for voice acting, off the wall humour and a massive city to explore. There is a lot of replay value and the multiplayer (cooperative and adversarial) is highly addictive. Not only that but it has a great soundtrack and will appeal to a child of the 80's for sure. This needs to go into the stocking of someone who has finished GTA IV and might be looking at something a little different.
On the Tenth day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: a rock and roll band on my TV.
There's something therapeutic about music and whether it is the screaming madness that was Iron Maiden or the subtle tones of Fleetwood Mac or Journey there's part of us that years to be in a rock band. EA's Rock Band took the world by storm with its addictive blend of team-based cooperative band play (four instruments) and solid gameplay mechanics a while back and now they're at it again with Rock Band 2. This is a game that you need to buy on its own though, and in the UK that's all you can do until the Band Box comes out next year. But don't worry, since our 12th day is Guitar Hero World Tour you'll see why. Rock Band 2 builds on Rock Band and offers more robust options, a few more character design customization options in terms of a few new faces and some new costumes. The biggest tweaks are in online and offline gameplay, where your rock star now can play any instrument and you don't have to create a character for each. You can also sub members of your band in so that friends can join you. The game has dynamic challenges built from your downloaded songs and allows you to import all but 4 songs from Rock Band onto your 360 hard drive. It deserves to be in the Christmas stocking of family members who are old rockers, new rockers and definitely into karaoke, forget Lips; this is where it's at. The vocal experience in Rock Band 2 is leagues ahead of that in Lips and it's much easier for the novice singer than Guitar Hero World Tour. In fact I'd go as far as saying it's easier in general for the novice gamer than GHWT. This is the Christmas game for a family that likes to play together or those housemates who want to be in a band yet lack the courage to start their own for real. Plus, with 20 free songs when you buy the game and over 100 on Rock Band 2, this is the biggest music library in a music game yet!
On the Eleventh day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: an epic tale of wartime camaraderie.
This game deserves to be on the Christmas list or in the stocking of anyone who loves World War Two games. I'm not talking about Call of Duty: World at War here though, I'm talking about Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway. This is one of the best single player World War Two games that's been made yet with a highly emotionally charged story, excellent characterization and even an appearance from Band of Brother's very own Robert Sink. Hell's Highway is a game that attempts to capture the gritty realism of World War Two and portrays the violence in a stark gritty manner; it's not one for the kids. This is going to appeal to anyone who is a fan of World War Two games and it even has a few control options to set the game to a particular control scheme. Tactical Six and Tour of Duty will allow you to play the game with similar controls to Rainbow Six Vegas 2 and Call of Duty 4 for example. Hell's Highway marries superb action with a solid storyline, beautifully crafted locations and tactical gameplay that requires a player to think more than shoot. If you play this game like a modern fps then you're going to lose. The multiplayer is decent enough but lacking in maps and modes, the only downside that might see some players want to look for something else. There's no cooperative play but as a single player game its one of the best of its kind. The cinematic action camera provides a spectacular view of a tricky shot or a well-thrown grenade.
For the Twelfth day of Christmas my true love's game to me was: Ozzy Osbourne singing Mr. Crowley
All aboard for the Crazy Train that is Guitar Hero World Tour. EA and Harmonix might have Rock Band and Rock Band 2, but Red Octane have managed to secure their place in the fret-burning, finger-ripping world of music games by making Guitar Hero after Guitar Hero game. Now they were obviously a little miffed by the fact that EA beat them to the punch with Harmonix and MTV with Rock Band, but not to be outdone they struck back with Guitar Hero World Tour. Now this is the game you want to get for your rock obsessive that is a big fan of Ozzy and older bands like the Eagles. Yet it's not so much a war between these two game giants as an uneasy alliance, since Rock Band 2 supports the GHWT drums (99.9% accuracy in response time) and other instruments, our Christmas recommendation is that you spend the £150 on the band box for GHWT and buy Rock Band 2. The instruments in GHWT are of an excellent quality and the game is superb. The character customization is insane and miles better than Rock Band 2. The track list is a little less impressive for some people but we like it. There are some solid hits here. The vocal play, instrument play is a lot harder than Rock Band 2 so this is more for the big fan of Guitar Hero or the player who really wants to challenge their fret-mastery of the fake plastic guitar. This deserves to go into someone's Christmas stocking that has a serious love of music games and Guitar Hero in general. As an added bonus it's possible using the music studio and mixer studio in the game to make your own songs and upload/share them with the online community. With a steady growing library of excellent music, instrument compatibility between games and a solid career mode, GHWT is the music game to buy first this Christmas.
So there you go, in no particular order of greatness those are the 12 days of Games Xtreme Xbox360 Christmas. These are the top picks out of a long list of good quality titles released this year and they're bound to provide hours of fun and gameplay goodness.