Xbox 360 BC: The Best Ones
Some old Xbox classics you should try out on the 360.
Enough ranting to embattled Zenmeister Peter Moore about the Xbox games that don't work on our 360s. What about the ones that do? It's not as though Microsoft's "emulation ninjas" haven't already managed to get a whole bundle of them working, and with that in mind we've cheered up a bit since yesterday and started working through the "compatible" list and had some fun sorting the wheat from the chaff.
Over the next few pages you'll no doubt come across a few titles you've overlooked, or maybe ones you've bought and never got around to finishing. Or maybe you're just one of those lucky sods that has endless amounts of time to spare and can justify playing through them all over again. If that's you, we hate you with every fibre of our being and will be coming around your house soon to steal your toys.
Ok, that's probably not legal, but you might find yourself out of pocket once you've perused all these fabulous titles you need in your life [that'll teach 'em - Ed]. It's not as if there's much being released on the 360 for a few months.
The best backwards-compatible games, then
Lego Star Wars
Eidos/Traveller's Tales, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support
The fact that Microsoft 'forced' [kill me now - Ed] this to work on the 360 this week is a serious cause for celebration. Not only is it one of the most charming games released in recent times, it's probably the best use of the Star Wars license ever. Bram-solo reckons it's "simultaneously the most elegant franchise crossover and the best children's game I've ever played". The game varies in pace and style, switching emphasis from "mostly platform puzzling action and pod racing to dropship combat and even space combat". His only complaint was that it was a bit short ("a handful of hours") thanks to its kid-friendly infinite lives and occasionally unhelpful camera angles, but it has got a super-cool co-op mode where a buddy can jump in and out of on the action at any time. And those graphics. Cuuute.
If, like me, you're a Star Wars fan wondering where the magic went, he suggests for us cynics to "look no further". At the pocket-friendly price that it's currently going for, that sounds like a damned fine idea.
Activision/Vicarious Visions/id Software, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support
Another game added to Microsoft's growing list of compatible games, and certainly one of the most high profile offerings to join the list in a while. Not many people would have backed Vicarious Visions to pull off a faithful port - after all, we're talking about a next-gen PC game that was designed as a showcase for id's latest technology.
As Bram-hell admitted in his review, Doom III was "very difficult to evangelise convincingly". And how right he is for this most Marmite of games that people either loved to bits or spent long laborious hours ripping to shreds. As a next-gen FPS, many people weren't happy with respawning demons popping out from behind you and going "boo!" repeatedly, and stupid design decisions like not being able to wield a weapon and a torch/flashlight at the same time. Nor were they happy with the slow-ish pace to begin with, or the tight corridors, and many gave up before the game really got going. They wanted dozens of hell demons and manic shooting thrills from the off, not some brooding survival horror wannabe with latex monsters.
But it gets sooooo much better than the opening few hours suggests, with the rampant hell-and-beyond levels every bit as intense and manic as the 'classic' Dooms ever were. And frankly Vicarious Visions didn't get nearly enough credit for making this look as faithful to the PC as it does. Cranked up to 720p it looks even better, and looks bloody brilliant on a big HDTV. Plus this version's got co-op - so there's no excuse. Doom-well wrestled with both schools of thought about Doom III, but it's perhaps best summed up when he said "it prompts far more blasphemous exclamation of the 'Jesus Christ' variety than virtually any other FPS level in living memory". Yes. Yes, it does, and while it might not be the most revolutionary game of its type on many levels, any game that gets you this worked up deserves further examination.
EA/Criterion, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support
Now here's a rarity - an Xbox game released this year that's compatible with the 360. It's also Criterion's first ever attempt at an FPS, meaning that extreme destruction was always going to be high on the agenda, and it instantly impressed by being among the most exciting FPSs ever seen on a console. Full of blistering set-pieces and an incredible bodycount, there's barely a moment when the needle's not fully in the red. Technically, also, it was yet another example of Criterion's "otherworldly" ability to push the capabilities of whatever machine it turns its hands to. The sheer volume of dust, noise and detail with barely a frame rate stutter in sight makes this an absolute must for those into the more action-oriented shooters.
On the other hand, there were justifiable moans about the game's longevity, with just eight levels (and similar number of hours) to wade through and no multiplayer. Some also took issue with the distinct lack of enemy variety, and some iffy design decisions that gave a distinctly unfinished feel to (admittedly very small) sections of the game. When something as polished as Black comes along, it's easy to spot the cracks, but overall it was a great debut for a team previously schooled in crashing cars. On 360 it's by no means outclassed - in fact, play this after Perfect Dark Zero and you'll see what we mean.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Take-Two/Headfirst Productions, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support
Produced under tumultuous circumstances that eventually contributed to Headfirst's sad demise recently, this was one of last year's hidden gems that was slipped under the radar by Take-Two with barely a whisper about its arrival. But Lovecraft fans and those who need a bit of horror in their lives were mightily impressed with the hideous atmosphere that seems to emanate from every doom-laden location in the game.
With a dark and grainy visual style that lends itself perfectly to the psychotic state that private investigator Jack Walters finds himself afflicted with, the sense of panic and terror is palpable. Some of the sections are extremely tricky, so don't expect an easy ride, and admittedly the game lacks a certain amount of polish and forgiveness stood next to most game releases these days. That said, devoted fans of the genre would be well advised to track the game down while you can - with its limited release having long since passed, you may well struggle to get hold of it if you don't snap it up. With the extra degree of visual crispness on the 360, this is well worth it for under £20.
Update: this title only works if you switch to PAL 50, therefore won't work if you're using a VGA cable.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Summit Strike
Ubisoft, Gamepage, Play.com page
If GRAW was your introduction to the Ghost Recon series, then you'd be well advised to check out Ubi's curiously unheralded follow-on to Ghost Recon 2. Superior in every way to GR2, this cut-price standalone 'expansion' came out to zero fanfare in September 2005 and built up a hefty following with those in the know.
Using the same squad-based formula that we're all familiar with, it's nevertheless a much more open version of GR, and righted some of the wrongs that fans vented about GR2. If you preferred the more experimental feel to Island Thunder, then Summit Strike will fit the bill nicely - though be warned that some AI respawn glitches take the shine off the game a little. As ever, Ubi adds exceptional value with some top-notch Xbox Live modes and some of the best visuals we've ever seen from the now-humble Xboxen. For the price it's going for these days, it'd be rude to pass up on this rather under-rated title.