Microsoft has announced that Xbox 360 titles The Darkness 2 and Spec Ops: The Line are now backward compatible on Xbox One.

That's great news, and an excellent opportunity to revisit two games that perhaps didn't quite get their dues at the time of release. Both are fascinating, somewhat under-appreciated gems, each bringing their own unique outlook to the shooter landscape of 2012.

The Darkness 2, developed by Digital Extremes, is a narrative-heavy first-person shooter which, like its predecessor, sought to shake up its core action by giving players supernatural powers - and bloody great tentacles to boot. And if man-skewering tendrils somehow weren't enough of a draw, The Darkness 2 introduced a urinating cockney imp sidekick too.

"After years of chest-beating military domination, the FPS genre is starting to show signs of life in more eccentric ways," said Dan Whitehead in Eurogamer's review of The Darkness 2, "Everything old is new again, so by concentrating on character, story and giddy comic-book excess, The Darkness 2 is a more compelling offering in 2012 than it would have been in 2008. It may be little more than a gore-soaked custard slice on the great gaming buffet table, but it's a guilty pleasure worth tasting all the same".

Developer Yager's Spec Ops: The Line was equally unconventional, skewing its familiar military shooter set-up with some smart sleight of hand. What initially appeared to be bombastic, brainless third-person action fodder soon revealed itself to be a rather more thoughtful, sobering look at life on the frontline in times of war.

"It tries to do something special, and it tries to create something memorable and something strange", said Christian Donlan of Spec Ops: The Line, "In Dubai itself, it genuinely succeeds, perhaps because the reality of the place is already so gaudy, so cloyingly, oppressively weird, that it provides a good hard shove in the right direction before the first bullet's been fired. There are such a lot of shooters these days, and so many tend to blur into each other if you're not careful. This one won't, however - and that's quite an achievement."

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Matt Wales

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Matt Wales is a freelance writer and gambolling summer child who won't even pretend to live a busily impressive life of dynamic go-getting for the purposes of this bio. He is the sole and founding member of the Birdo for President of Everything Society.

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