Rockstar has announced a trio of classic Xbox 360 games getting backward compatibility next week; as of June 7th, GTA San Andreas, Midnight Club LA, and Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis will be playable on Xbox One.
GTA San Andreas, as if it needs much of an introduction, was Rockstar's follow-up to the wonderful Vice City, and took the series in a slightly grittier direction. It's an absolutely vast experience, and was an especially astonishing achievement at the time of its PS2 release in 2004. It lunges from the urban sprawl of Los Santos to the surrounding countryside and back again, mixing automotive crime capering with everything from territory occupations to dating.
"All round it's still an incredible achievement for Rockstar, and it deserves all the success it's sure to get," said Eurogamer's 9/10 review, "but like a band at the peak of its powers [...] less often turns out to be more. There may be some classic moments on it, but you have to wade through the self-indulgent bits first, and for all San Andreas' pomp and ambition it's not a Be Here Now, but it's almost certainly Rockstar's White Album."
Midnight Club Los Angeles, meanwhile, which released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2008, is Rockstar's most recent take on pure, open-world street racing. It tosses cars and bikes into an sprawling version of LA, chucks in dynamic weather and multiplayer, then lets you hurtle around to your heart's content.
"From time to time, it will get the better of you," noted Eurogamer's 8/10 review, "and at that point it's not about difficulty so much as accumulated failure, a burden Midnight Club: Los Angeles forces you to carry, and one that's tough to bear for all the game's other successes. Tolerate the lashing of agony that accompanies every one of these moments, though, and this is fast, brutal, ingenious racing drama, dragging you into the screen every bit as thoroughly as Burnout Paradise, and delivered in a manner that befits the publisher that financed GTA IV."
Last but not least then is Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis - a title that tells you everything you'll ever need to know about the game without having to look at a single screenshot. It is, as you can probably surmise, Rockstar's at-the-time-entirely-unexpected foray into the heady world of, yes, table tennis. And it's bloody brilliant - easy to learn and a joy to master.
Tom Bramwell awarded the game a 9/10 when it came to Xbox 360 back in 2006, saying, "It's the sign of a great sports game when you can't think of anything you'd want to change in the next version. It doesn't need another version. If Rockstar's decision over whether to make more of these vanity side projects wobbles precariously, then we must all band together around them, shielding them from the winds. This is brilliant, whichever way you spin it."
So as backward compatibility updates go, this one's a bit of a winner, bringing three excellent, and pleasingly diverse, Rockstar games to Xbox One. If you already own the Xbox 360 discs (or even the original Xbox disc, in the case of San Andreas), you just need to slip them into your console to begin playing on June 7th. And if you've yet to add them to your collection, all three Xbox 360 games can be purchased digitally on the Xbox Store for £11.99 each.