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The Bluffer's Guide to Xbox Cult Classics

Top of the Flops, if you like. [updated!]

Psi Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

The game that did physics-based gameplay before Half-Life 2 but got about 0.01% of the credit for it, which is a shame. Looking back, I can't believe we left this one off the list, because of all the action adventure games in this expansive rundown of flops, Psi-Ops stands proud as arguably the best of the bunch. Somewhat unfairly written ignored (mainly for being a Midway-published game), the game didn't help itself with a fairly generic look about it, but the excellent controls and mind control gameplay were a revelation. Based around the idea of Psi energy, you gradually unlocked all manner of interesting powers, like the aformentioned Telekinesis, which allowed you to lob things around, while mind control literally let you take full control over your enemies, allowing you to over-ride security and even kill other enemies while in control of them. Excellent stuff and well worth tracking down.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? No.
You'll like it if: you want a true overlooked action adventure in your collection.
A word of warning: The generic visuals are initially off-putting.

Second Sight

Second Sight - Sean Connery wasn't asked to do the advert...

And we can't mention Psi-Ops without also giving the nod to its spiritual brother, Second Sight. Designed by the ever-reliable Free Radical, this shared an uncanny amount of gameplay features as Psi-Ops (and came out at almost the exact same time, unfortunately). For a start it was, again, about telekinetic powers, but Second Sight's storyline, characters and visual style was instantly more engaging than Psi-Ops. Sadly, the gameplay wasn't quite as well-realised as its rival and the use of TK powers was nowhere near as much fun, so you ended up with two games that had much to offer, but not all at the same time. An interesting experiment, nonetheless, and one that emerged almost intact, despite evidently suffering from being passed around various publishers before ending up with Codemasters.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? No.
You'll like it if: you want to see what the makers of TimeSplitters also came up with.
A word of warning: The first missions are awful - it soon improves, though.

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Hulk - Banner's other alter-ego: The Abomination.

Now, even I foolishly overlooked this one when I was running through the list, but a game with absolutely bags of dumb, unpretentious carnage and fun. Released last summer with fairly low expectations surrounding it (especially after the dreadful previous Hulk title), it was one of the best action games of the year. Developed by the increasingly reliable Radical Entertainment, it managed to pinch elements of GTA's openworld structure and apply it to a game where you're constantly being hunted down by all and sundry - including the military. Cue enormous face-offs with tanks, choppers and a whole army of goons trying their best to bring you down. But being the Hulk, you're able to pretty much smash up the entire universe and get away with it. It all got a bit repetitive after a while, but it was great fun for a while, a good use of the license, and even ran in 720p. Go get it.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? Yes. Hulk happy!
You'll like it if: you like smashing things up and using a bus as a skateboard.
A word of warning: It repeats itself quite quickly.

Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller

Crazy Taxi 3 - stretching the concept to breaking point, but still a great game.

Let's face it, Crazy Taxi was an amazing breath of fresh air when it appeared on Dreamcast all those years ago, but by the time we'd got to No.3, the novelty had worn off a great deal and we really couldn't see the point of shelling out £40 for a game we'd gotten bored of two years before. But let's cut this some slack: it's the only Crazy Taxi game ever to appear on Xbox, it's the only console you can find it on, and it'll be cheap as chips when you find it. Despite my harsh review score (based on what it represented at the time), this is arguably the definitive version of the game, with more cities, more drivers and generally more content. So if you're after yet another great Sega title that bombed, there's definitely a case for picking up one of the most gleeful arcade driving games ever.

What did we think? 4/10
Compatible with 360? No. Crazy.
You'll like it if: you like madcap driving around a dayglo city.
A word of warning: Short-lived, and slowdown in places.

Steel Battalion

Steel Battalion - the most ridiculous controller ever!

Fancy paying £130 for a mech shooter with the most impractical controller ever made? Well, Capcom thought you might like that when it released this insanely ill-advised game in the Spring of 2003. Aside from the fact that the control peripheral needed an entire desk (with pedal attachment) to set it up on, the game itself was just, well....odd. The HUD took up about 60 per cent of the screen, leaving you to squint at the grainy action going on in the middle portion of the screen. The game itself had an initial novelty value, but on a technical level just wasn't all that impressive. But if you absolutely have to own one of the rarest Xbox games ever made, Tom and I still have our copies in the the loft (sob).

What did we think? 6/10
Compatible with 360? Denied.
You'll like it if: you've got a big house and like showing off to your Mech geek friends.
A word of warning: It's the coolest controller ever, but it'll never go back in the box properly. Like, ever.

Everybody loves a well appointed cockpit.

Serious Sam

Serious Sam - the very definition of run and gun.

You've got to admire Croteam's purist take on the often self-important first person shooter. Stripping it back to its Doom-like origins and amping it up to levels of giggling insanity, such notions of plot or atmosphere are kicked out of the way in favour of massed waves of relentlessly silly enemies that scream and explode like an army of angry lemmings. The first in the series was eventually ported to the Xbox in late 2002, and still managed to charm us with with its simplicity - despite having been out on the PC for ages and lacking Live play. The sequel was a real step up in terms of visuals (and included the all-important Live element), and although lacked the novelty value of the original, it retained that furious craziness that you just don't see anymore. Great stuff, and well worth picking up for a song.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? Yes, but not the sequel.
You'll like it if: You want a crazed first person blaster.
A word of warning: The visuals on the original are a bit shocking these days, but very fast.

Star Wars Republic Commando

SWRC - strangely overlooked, considering how good it is.

Only ever released on Xbox and PC, this rather excellent Star Wars take on squad based tactical shooting has been quickly forgotten about in the blur of cash-in titles, but was memorable for being superbly designed, beautiful looking, and very enjoyable first person title. Ok, it was slightly dumbed down next to the more serious Rainbow Six games that inspired it, but with a context sensitive design, you always knew what to do next and how best to utilise the strengths of your four-man team of Clone Troopers. With a respectable online element adding to the package, it was one of the forgotten gems of the Xbox, and well worth hunting down for the right price.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? No. The force is weak, etc.
You'll like it if: you want a decent Star Wars single player shooter.
A word of warning: The single player campaign is short-lived, but fun while it lasts.

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

KUFH - Wyverns, like fantasy pigeons.

Now this is really obscure, but very good indeed. Jim raved about this, enjoying the way the indirect RTS style game switched to full-on melee combat to the strains of hardcore speed metal. You can say what you like about Orcs and Elves, but they have all the best tunes, if this is anything to go by.

What did we think? 8/10
Compatible with 360? No. My Kingdom for compatibility.
You'll like it if: You like your RTSs grafted onto full-blown action games.
A word of warning: Wobbly camera and some odd bugs.

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