Sunday, June 14, 2009

One Year With The XBox 360

One year ago this evening I was enjoying dangerous amounts of alcohol with my closest friends who honored me with a bachelor party. It was at this event that they presented me with my XBox 360, a most generous gift that I've certainly gotten a lot of play out of since then.

One year with this generation's, um , well it's not the best selling console(that's be the Wii), and it's probably not the most powerful console (that'd be the Playstation 3), so let's just call it this generation's coolest console, yeah. Anyway, one year with the XBox 360 has taken me to so many worlds and given me so many memorable gaming experiences that it seems like a whirlwind.

I blasted through this generation's most epic and cinematic first-person shooter when I played Call of Duty 4. I fought through City 17 and its surroundings in Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode One, and Half-Life 2 Episode 2, a gaming experience rife with moments of absolute joy. And Portal, ah Portal. Original, refreshing, innovative, challenging, and fun, with such a devious twist at the end, and then an end credit sequence that brought tears to my eyes it was so awesome. Portal alone justifies the price tag of the XBox 360.

I tried Bioshock, and it was cool, but didn't grab me. Perhaps because it was a game a co-worker insisted I try. I bet I'd like it if I bought my own copy, and I might yet do that. Then it was Grand Theft Auto 4. Nothing ever made can compare to its size and scope, its accomplishment as an entertainment product, and its sheer amount of fun-to-play gushing from every screen. Four months, on and off, to beat it, and then later, it's downloaded spin-off The Lost and Damned.

The XBox Live service itself has been a highlight, especially when they offer up titles like Duke Nuken 3D, perfectly translated and still a blast. My wife Monique has found plenty of puzzle games on the service, which suits her preferred gaming genre.

Dead Space was another highlight. Dark, moody, challenging, with stunning visuals and well-made gameplay innovations, my romp on the Ishimura was very memorable. As was my trip to Albion for Fable 2, which had some flaws, but not enough to keep me from playing both of its subsequent downloaded expansion packs.

And then there was Left 4 Dead. From the makers of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this pure action game threw hordes of zombies at players, alone or online, with fantastic results. Of all the fleeting online expereinces I've had on XBox Live, the time spent with Left 4 Dead was the most memorable.

From the zombie apocalypse I headed to Africa for Farcry 2, another gorgeous first-person shooter, this one combined with the sandbox play of Grand Theft Auto 4. It's a formula that worked quite well and offered weeks and weeks of gunfights and exploration. Next, I was pulled aboard another alien spaceship for Prey, and after that it was off to a vast island nation for another sandbox masterpiece, Just Cause.

I spent some time in the shaky future of Fracture, and after that I returned to Africa for an all-new Resident Evil epic (the 5th one). What worlds were left to conquer at this point? Quite a few worlds, actually, as I took off for the stars in Mass Effect, a game where the whole galaxy is the friggin' sandbox. Size and scale are relative, it seems.

Most recently, I enjoyed some more lighthearted fare with Guitar Hero III : Legends of Rock and The Maw, and for more sandbox fun I headed for the city of Stilwater in Saint's Row. The crusades were the setting for the stunning and original Assassin's Creed, a game of strange designs yet memorable gameplay. Finally, I've wrapped up my first year of XBox 360 with the spooky first-person melee masterpiece Condemned : Criminal Origins.

Currently I've taken a dive into a deep and massive RPG with The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion, and started on the sequel to Condemned, called Condemned 2 : Bloodshot. Oh, and tomorrow night at midnight I'm hoping to score a copy of Ghostbusters at Wal-Mart, because bustin' makes me feel good.

Many worlds behind me, and many more beckon. The XBox 360 has been a gateway to some of the best game experiences of my life, and I can't wait to where it takes me next.

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