Bargain Bin: Best of the 360 Edition

Bargain Bin

Since many of you deal hunters have recently taken the plunge on the recently price-dropped Xbox 360, allow me to pontificate about two of the finest games you’re likely to play on that (or any other) system these days, and on the cheap to boot!

Mass Effect

 

Mass Effect

In case you hadn’t heard, Mass Effect is the latest console RPG from BioWare, creators of Knights of the Old Republic.  Rather than stick with an already established (and woefully overused) license, they opted to create an all new sci-fi universe.

And what a universe it is!  The premise is that mankind has recently discovered beacons that allow them to travel to various points across the cosmos.  Apparently, humanity came rather late to the party, however, as there’s already an established multi-species intergalactic empire at work.  Thankfully, they’re not the overly hostile, "we will enslave you" types, but as newcomers, mankind is perceived as a tad primitive and uncivilized.  The whole thing works as a wonderful allegory for colonization; where humans and other species want to work together, but can’t help but feel skeptical about their new "friends."  Whether you play things by their rules is entirely up to you, and either path is among the most well-written and fully realized science-fiction universes ever conceived (in a game or otherwise).

It’s also a great action RPG.  With simple, but deep combat playing like a mix of Gears of War and Bioshock, getting into a scuff on your increasingly epic missions is always a pleasure.  The voice-acting and writing are top-notch, and the game wisely avoids one of the greatest pitfalls of the genre — usually games of this type will give you a silent protagonist, or have you play as an established character, but not here.  In a revolutionary move, the game allows you to design your character, which is then used convincingly for in-game cut scenes.  You’ll really come to care about your personalized Commander Shepard.  It also has some of the best music in a genre packed to the brim with great music already.  In short, the game’s production values are fantastic.

The game did receive some criticism for not capitalizing on its promise of being open-ended.  It’s not.  Rather it’s a very linear shooter with lots of talking and leveling up.  The side missions are very simple and mostly there as an excuse for more combat, and your choices may not effect things as much as you’d like, but for a compelling sci-fi action/adventure, you really can’t go wrong with Mass Effect.

It’s $19.99 new on Amazon

…or you can buy it for the same price from Gamestop where they also have it used for $14.99.

Crackdown

 

Crackdown

Conceived by GTA and Lemmings creator David Jones as the first game for his recently founded studio, Realtime Worlds, Crackdown at first glance resembled little more than a Grand Theft Auto clone.  You could roam around a giant, sandbox city, steal cars, and blow up criminals.  The similarities, however, end there.

Crackdown was perhaps the first game to fully realize the sandbox concept.  Rather than the city acting as a large hub for the game’s missions, you’re given your one and only mission right at the offset — to eliminate 21 gang leaders.  How you go about it, however, is entirely up to you.  There’s no dialogue, no cut scenes (except for the beginning and end), and no items to find.  You’re not even given map markers.  You’re just told to go out there and beat up some criminals.

If all this sounds perhaps a little too free-form for you and maybe like more of a toy than a game, there is a compelling level up system.  As you use your core skills, such as firearms, explosives, driving, and melee attacks, they’ll level up based on how much you’ve used them; it’s a brilliant, albeit simple system normally reserved for true RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls, and later lauded in in Fable 2.  Your agility, however (i.e. how high you can jump and how fast you run) are leveled up by finding green "agility orbs."  In essence, everything you do in Crackdown is fun.  You’ll go from collecting orbs one second, to blowing up a convoy of gang bangers the next, and sooner or later you’ll stumble upon a boss’s wonderfully exaggerated hideout.

There isn’t much of a narrative, but don’t let that fool you; the outlandish, corrupt, Robocop-esque world does a brilliant job of setting the scene for some of the most exciting action/platforming/driving you’re likely to find anywhere.  It’s like an arcade version of GTA, stripped of all its slow mucking about and replaced with super powers.

It’s still a bit tricky to find new, but it’s dirt cheap used.  I’ve seen it as low as $12 on GameFly, and would recommend checking cheapassgamer.com for a deal, as they seem to pop up quite a bit. 

In the meantime, GameStop.com has it used for $12.99…

…or at Amazon, where it’s still a bit much new, some marketplace sellers are selling it for under $20 shipped for a factory sealed copy.

There you go!  You have an xbox 360, now use it!

Shopping advice

As previously stated, go to www.cheapassgamer.com.  People are constantly posting deals there, and there’s even a forum for requesting deals (they also have a separate forum for non-gaming related deals.  It’s how I got a sweet deal on the Dell I’m using to type up this article for you fine folks).  Just today I ordered the Asian disc copy of Siren: Blood Curse, (or New Translation as it’s called in the East) which never saw a disc release in the US, for under $30 shipped.  That’s over 25% off what it is at on PSN and on a disc to boot (and yes, the game still has an English option).  Everyone knows to check the Sunday ads for games, but does everyone know the latest deals from buy.com or gamefly?  Or maybe a store in your area is having a good clearance deal.  Whatever the case, cheapassgamer should be the first place to look when gauging how little you can get a game for.

They’ve also got a wonderful trading forum with a fully-realized ebay-like feedback system.  I’ve made nearly a couple dozen transactions on it and never had a problem.  Be realistic though.  If you don’t have any feedback and the person you’re buying, selling, or trading from does, it’s common courtesy for you to send first.  Otherwise it’s possible that you could be setting up multiple accounts to scam people.  For added insurance, lots of people use delivery confirmation when sending stuff, for piece of mind.

Good hunting!

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