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Xbox 360 BC: The Best Ones

Some old Xbox classics you should try out on the 360.

Rallisport Challenge
Microsoft/DICE, Gamepage, Play.com page, widescreen and 480p support

Back in the day, good old Gestalt felt giddy enough to award this a whopping (and extremely rare) 10/10, remarking that it was "stupendous" and "the shining star in the Xbox launch line-up". Better than Halo? Swankier than Gotham? Apparently so. Personal preferences aside, the buying public didn't share his opinion, and sales of this still-credible game limped along in comparison, to the extent that this has probably become the forgotten game of the 'good' early Xbox games.

Having been made compatible this week as part of Microsoft's 21-strong US list, we fired it up and gave it a spin to see how it shapes up these days and came away mightily impressed. Ok, it doesn't quite have the convincing handling of Colin McRae or the simulation appeal of Richard Burns, but as an arcade take on the genre it's absolutely superb. Thanks to DICE's mastery of the technical abilities of the Xbox, it has barely dated in the slightest, and seeing the game run in 720p is a real eye-opener. Unlike most of the early Xbox games, it's actually better than we remember. Having said that, Microsoft really needs to make the superior sequel work with the 360 too. Playing this again has only whetted out appetite to get back to playing that...

Quick, shoot him in the turnip!

House of the Dead 3
SEGA/Wow Entertainment, Gamepage, Play.com page

Missing the point somewhat, I remarked that this was "the shortest game ever" but wisely gave the game two scores based on what price you could pick it up for. Having observed that it took longer to write the review than complete the flippin' game, it's hard not to be a little exasperated by the lack of content, but given that it was a basic port of an arcade light-gun game, it does exactly what it intended to.

You could say they don't make 'em like this anymore, and as far as brainless RSI-inducing on-rails blasters go, this is right up there with the best of them. With more gore than your average video nasty and some of the hammiest lines you've ever heard in a game, it's the archetypal B-Movie videogame - therefore a cast-iron cult classic, especially with the awesome HOTD2 featuring as an unlockable. Quite how you're supposed to play them with a light-gun on a 360, though, is a moot point, but it plays just fine with the pad, so don't worry.

Half-Life 2
EA/Valve, Gamepage, Play.com page, widescreen and 480p support

If you're one of the unfortunate FPS fans that missed out on this on the PC (or just couldn't be arsed with all the Steam shenanigans) then it might be well worth checking out Valve's masterpiece on your shiny new 360. Of course, Valve hasn't confirmed plans to port this to the 360 (yet), and may never, so if you fancy playing around with gravity guns and slicing zombies in half with saw blades then firing up the Xbox version on the 360 is still well worth it.

Fair enough, you won't get the staggering visual opulence that's a standard part of the PC experience, but this incredible port still managed to push the Xbox hardware harder than probably any other game on the system, though Valve needs its wrists slapped for omitting multiplayer from the package. However, given how big the game is (15-20 hours) there's more than enough to keep you going for long enough to make it worth your while, and more than enough variety to make it worth pushing on through a generally top-notch experience. Watch out, though. Microsoft still hasn't quite nailed the emulation of this title, with some frame rate issues noticeably slowing down the game at times. As long as MS sticks to its side of the bargain, this definitely deserves its place as a must-have Xbox title on 360.

N.B. - this title will only run in PAL 50 currently.

Sharp to begin with, it's pointier than a stick now. Although not in this PS2 screenshot. RUBBISH.

Super Monkey Ball Deluxe
SEGA/Amusement Vision, Gamepage, Play.com page, widescreen and 480p support

After years as one of the best reasons to own a GameCube, its belated transition to the Xbox didn't quite get the fanfare it perhaps deserved, but our resident simian sympathiser Tomonkey Bramwell still gave the thumbs up to this 'definitive' version of the two SMB titles. Featuring all the levels and mini-games from both, plus some new ones, the Xbox version was by some distance the better of the two 'ports' - even though the Xbox pad held it back from being the best version overall.

However, the 360 compatibility sheds new light on this debate, with the wondrous 360 wireless pad making it a more enjoyable experience than ever. Tom still insists the more sensitive 'dead zone' of the Cube pad still hasn't been beaten, but one thing that's not in doubt is the incredible visual quality that the 360 provides for this version - in upscaled 720p it's an absolute treat, and gives weight to Tom's assertion that this is "something you need to own", especially with all levels and mini-games collected in one package. Black mark for SEGA for ignoring Xbox Live Leaderboards. Maybe next time...

Grand Theft Auto Triple Pack - III, Vice City, San Andreas
Rockstar/Rockstar Games, Double Pack Gamepage, Play.com page, widescreen and 480p support

Given that Xbox owners either have to pick up the double pack or triple pack or San Andreas on its own, it's not all that straightforward for us to recommend one specific GTA game for Xbox. All you really need to know is that the Xbox versions are a wee bit better than their PS2 dads, with sharper, smoother visuals and shorter load times - and on 360 the added presence of 720p upscaling sweetens the deal even more.

Having said that, GTA has never been a game known for pushing the visual quality, but for its trademark sandbox gameplay, wicked humour, and vast, expansive environments that can take months on end to fully explore (if true completion is your thing). Thinking back, GTA 3 had the most impact and got the balance right in terms of giving an environment that didn't overwhelm in terms of scale (unlike the bloated San Andreas, which is effectively three games in one), but Vice City had the feel-good factor of the 80s and a stonking soundtrack that blew us away.

San Andreas had plenty going for it, and is definitely one of our all-time favourite games, but it's not an everyman's game. It has some truly hideous missions that spoil the flow, and simply goes on way too long for all but the most dedicated gamer. It saddens me to think that so many people didn't get to experience the best that this game had to offer, but you can't blame them either. Whatever your preferences, you should own at least one GTA title on the 360 - it's a landmark series and no mistake.

Don't look now, but there's a planet behind you.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
Microsoft/FASA, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support

The best flight combat game on Xbox? Maybe not (that honour goes to the wonderful Secret Weapons Over Normandy), but it's still a damned fine game in its own right, offering "instant and constant entertainment from the moment it hits the disk tray". With polished visuals, a great selection of missions and Live play, you could do a lot worse.

Thief: Deadly Shadows
Eidos/Ion Storm Austin, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support

"The most ambitious stealth game ever made, while also perhaps the most accessible" was our lofty assessment of Ion Storm's under appreciated effort. Using a far more fluid level design, the kind of freedom we yearn for in games was there in abundance in Deadly Shadows. "Pleasantly honed" we reckoned, and for under a tenner you can forgive the fact that it creaks a little in the frame rate department - but never to the detriment of this already slow-moving title.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Black Arrow
Ubisoft, Gamepage, Play.com page, 480p support

Going for a song on Play, this is arguably the finest Rainbow Six of the lot. Admittedly, the game "does nothing new whatsoever" but it still impressed us enough to award it 8/10. With some great set-pieces and a crafted selection of levels, the excellent mechanics at the core of game made this "repeat prescription" "just what the doctor ordered" [thunk]. Oh, and the Xbox Live modes were superb, too.

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Kristan Reed avatar

Kristan Reed

Contributor

Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

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