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Xbox 360: 12 Games of Christmas • Page 2

Play these with mince wine.

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

Kane & Lynch underpins everything we love about life: backstabbing, hate, and a good old punch-up. You see, these two protagonists - a flawed mercenary and psychopathic schizophrenic - share one wonderful quality in common: they absolutely despise each other, which makes co-operating to shoot the baddies kick up all sorts of mistrust and emotional issues, a bit like those explored on Neighbours.

It is a bizarre concept that slightly bonkers but brilliant Hitman developer IO Interactive is seasoning with some of the most compelling multiplayer modes we have heard about, albeit only with local co-operative play.

Aaaand: Kane and Lynch are enemies. On a related note, the Eurogamer content management system hates ampersands. What did they ever do? And why is that interesting?

Mass Effect

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It's even got Seth Green in it.

When a great storyteller sits you down and begins a tale, you would be silly to look the other way. BioWare began its console foray by reinventing Star Wars in Knights of the Old Republic, before recreating ancient and magical China in Jade Empire. It is now taking us back to space, but in its own world where humans are newcomers to the galactic mix, helping the governing body combat an ancient threat unearthed by one of its own elite agents.

You are Commander Shepard and you will build a crew around you as you explore the far reaches of space, building relationships as you watch your and their powers grow after countless battles and encounters. Cinematic immersion in a sprawling setting from stunning visuals and lavish audio is a given, as is the deepest and most accomplished dialogue response system a role-playing game has ever seen.

Expect to be transported into your own science-fiction world, then, as you uncover a story that will likely stay with you for a very long time.

Science bit: "Mass Effect" is the real-life name for dark energy.

Project Gotham Racing 4

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Here and also on real roads Tom can drive quickly.

Bizarre Creations was quite open when it admitted it rushed PGR3 so that it could be a launch title for the Xbox 360, even though it produced a solid and well received racer. This time it had no such restraints and was adamant that it would take as long as it needed to produce the best game it could.

And so it tweaked the Kudos system, adjusted the handling, and improved its track design methods, giving the game greater balance than any previous instalment. Subtle points, perhaps, but vital foundations for the exemplary racing game assembled upon them. Also noteworthy for being the first racing game with fog you actually appreciate. In Macau anyway.

High there: Each of PGR4's cities is based on tens of thousands of recon photos and takes bloody ages to make, as roads and street layouts are painstakingly mapped. But for some reason they guestimate all the heights.

The Orange Box

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Strong love emotion feeling.

Any one of the games contained in this box would have come highly recommended, but instead you get five. It's the first time you will be able to play Half-Life 2 on your 360, for starters, before you can continue the adventure with Episode One and Episode Two, both acclaimed instalments in their own rights.

It also finally delivers the most refreshing multiplayer experience in years in the long-awaited Team Fortress 2, which combines cartoon visuals with an intricately balanced selection of classes to bring about enough tactical flexibility to last you a lifetime.

Then there is the enormously charming Portal, a puzzle game where you have to use a portal gun to solve problems, altering your perception of up and down and left and right and leaving you thoroughly confused but satisfied at every turn. Given that Valve doesn't believe in charging for downloadable content, there's every chance you'll be serenaded again in the months to come.

Anyway, each game is fantastic, and this is simply unmissable.

Interesting fact! You can actually do the final bit of Portal in around a minute. Well, you can't, but someone can. Don't click on that if you haven't finished it, obviously.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

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Posh.

Lara Croft is a pin-up of the gaming industry. She has had her own troop of models to replicate her in real life, and has been recreated on film by rubber-lipped pouter Angelina Jolie. We have also been bombarded with countless games over the years, but none have lived up to the one that started it all.

Thankfully, then, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos decided to remake the original and bring it into the 21st Century using the Tomb Raider: Legend engine. Much like dabbing away at the layers of make-up on Lara Croft, the result is a fresh-faced and beautiful game that encapsulates all the things we fell in love with originally.

Your grace: Apparently Lara Croft is the 11th Countess of Abbingdon. So be polite when she won't swim properly.

Virtua Fighter 5

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Unashamedly unapologetic.

Virtua Fighter is a series long held aloft by fighting aficionados as the most balanced and competitive game in the genre. It is unashamedly hardcore, but makes no apologies for it [which is what "unashamed" means -Ed].

The fifth instalment is no different, and provided PS3 owners months ago with the best Virtua Fighter game so far. But it had its flaws. It had no analogue control support, was left out of date by changes made to the arcade version, and famously featured no online head-to-head mode.

So while the Xbox 360 version may be late to the party, its prolonged arrival has allowed it to incorporate all of the above while preserving everything that made it so good in the first place.

Please don't sue us. Legend - and I stress legend - has it that a rival beat-'em-up designer once got drunk with Yu Suzuki and asked what the secret to VF's success was. Having found out, he made his own game. Suzuki reputedly now tells people that he left out the most important part, and that's why the other game's rubbish.

Had enough? Tough! Join us again soon for the 12 PlayStation 3 games you ought to consider in the run-up to Christmas.

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