Do AAA X360 Games Lack Originality? Part Two

Welcome to part two of our analysis of the quality in the top 20 Xbox 360 games according to Metacritic. Come in, pull up a chair and reminisce about those earlier days of the 360’s lifespan. If you haven’t the foggiest what’s going on here, may I suggest you look at part one first before you saunter on with part two. It’s time to look at games 14 through 8 today, and we’ve got some more blockbusters to bust! So without further ado, let’s begin.

 

14. Rock Band 2 (92)

Capitalizing on the explosive Rock Band, Harmonix delivered on the original Rock Band by making minimalist improvements and maximum tunes. The result is to be heard all across the world at 3am in the morning after drunken nights out. Hey, who said a rock band had to be timely? Guns ‘n’ Roses are certainly not. Reviewers loved the new and improved track list… but I’m one of the few who doesn’t. Yet the ability to integrate the tracks from Rock Band to its sequel for less than $5 is just superb. Guitar Hero eat your heart out?

What we said: “An amazingly fun game to get together with your friends in person or online. For party games, Rock Band 2 simply can’t be beat!” 9.0 out of 10.

Does it deserve top twenty status? Yes. Improving upon a sequel may be seen as an easy thing to do, but you must be careful not to alienate your fans. Rock Band 2 does no such thing as everything it changes makes a positive difference. It may not be a “sequel” as such, but it’s the better of the two Rock Band experiences and is a fun experience for all.

13. Rock Band (92)

Hmm. Writing about both Rock Band games in sequence… thanks Metacritic! Pre-RB, Harmonix were hot property. MTV saw the potential and snapped them up. There was no surprise when the rival to Guitar Hero was revealed. The only talking point was how Harmonix would now be a rival against its original smash hit. Undeterred by the change, Harmonix went out there and performed its ass off to the millions of 360 lovers with brand new innovation and hardware, in the shape of drums and microphones, taking centre stage. Not to mention a kick ass soundtrack. Rock Band showed up Guitar Hero III (the first installment under Neversoft) with the whole band experience and prompted a battle of the bands between the two that will no doubt continue on until the public are fed up of playing plastic guitars.

What we said: “This is an awesome and spectacular game. You can play it over and over again without getting tired of it, mentally, but it can wear you out physically.” 8.8 out of 10.

Does it deserve top twenty status? I’m afraid not. With the option to transfer your Rock Band songs over to Rock Band 2 for a small fee of $5, the relevance of Rock Band these days is literally as some sort of disc of DLC that would compliment your purchase of Rock Band 2. That’s not to say it wasn’t once top twenty material, but Rock Band is in the past and Rock Band 2 is the now. They’re just too similar

 
And now we come to the third Harmonix game in a row. You have to be wondering if their pants make gold records by now. Guitar Hero II took its predecessor’s content and pumped the amp up to 11… sorry, I resisted for as long as I could. The game’s soundtrack is fantastic and is most certainly my favorite set list in a music game. Which is surprising, when you consider that the vast majority of songs are covers, which are for the most part, impressively accurate (though as an Alice in Chains fan, the cover of ‘Them Bones’ is terrible). While Guitar Hero II definitely did bring improvements, it’s a similar improvement as seen between Rock Band 1 & 2 — minimalist. A port it may be, but with the inclusion of leaderboards and 10 new songs Guitar Hero II on the Xbox 360 is well worth playing.

What we said: “Overall Guitar Hero II is a must buy even for those who play the real guitar. I recommend you go out and buy it as soon as possible if you have not already.” 9.4 out of 10

Does it deserve top twenty status? …no. Despite being a port of a PS2 game, GHII is different from the Neversoft games in the series which makes it worth playing for those who jumped on the bandwagon late. But then again, these days it’s out-of-date compared to the rest of the series and plays quite differently to its sequels. You’re better off with Guitar Hero III. The score seems too high for this port as well.

 
 
11. Fallout 3 (93)
And now moving away from the guitar-wielding rhythm genre, we come to a very different monster, Or rather, monsters. Okay, mutants. Fallout 3 is the latest installment in the highly regarded series. But it is markedly different from its predecessors in that it is an FPS/RPG hybrid as opposed to a 2D isometric RPG/strategy. Nevertheless, it went on to gain the critical acclaim of the other main Fallout games and captured the attention of gamers everywhere. From the graphics, to the gameplay, to the temptation of spreading the word of nuclear everywhere for all to see with their own eyes; it’s delightfully intricate and addictive. It’s no wonder it stands out as one of the best games of last year.

 What we said: “Easily a contender for Game of the Year, and likely to be remembered for quite a long time. The few flaws to be found here are easily outweighed by all the things the game does right.” 9.5 out of 10

What the fans said: “Simply amazing, the massive environment, the graphics and the vast amount of hidden and unlockable content surely makes this one of the best games of ‘08.” tommystockley, TGR forum user.

Does it deserve top twenty status? Yes. With Fallout 3, Bethesda – despite not being the original series developer – manages to update and stay true to the Fallout formula. While it does have its issues, the payoff is still wonderful. Original and fun.

 
10. Braid (93)
You may have criticized it for its length and price, but there is no denying that Braid is certainly a modern downloadable masterpiece. Developer Jonathan Blow put his heart and soul into this little project, which also included $180k from his own pocket. But Blow has been a critic of the XBLA system and has previously said it has been hard to break even from Braid. But critically, the game was loved by all. The somber, melancholy depth to Braid undoubtedly put a lot of casual gamers off; however, many loved what Braid attempted to achieve and what it did achieve — a whole new way of thinking in a video game. It’s spectacular stuff.

What we said: “I feel like Braid should be in the top 3 on this list, and that it’s one of the best games of all time.” Eddie Inzauto, TGR Features Director.

Does it deserve top twenty status? Of course it does. The fact that it is an XBLA game shouldn’t detract from its beauty. If you’re going to download anything, then make it Braid. You’re supporting an independent developer and supporting innovation, as well as receiving some interactive art.

 
 
What better way to contrast the emotive Braid than with big-muscled dudes who eat their corn flakes with blood in the morning (a good source of glucose to keep the body and mind going). Gears of War 2 featured the continued adventures of Delta Squad and their battle, along with the rest of the COG war machine, against the Locust. The story is much improved from the first game, the set-pieces are eye-popping and the graphics compliment it all terrifically. And let us not forget the rush of Horde mode where five human players fight waves off Horde in a backs-against-the-wall-style. While the multiplayer is an acquired taste, it also received significant upgrades. Gears of War 2 is best played with a bottle of beer to your left and some sort of meat dish to your right.
 
What we said: “If you owned Gears of War then this is still a must-buy, but it’s not going to be a real contender for Game of the Year like its predecessor was. It’s fun to play through and beat with a friend, but it’s not the instant classic it could have been.” 9.0 out of 10
What the fans said: “Gears of War 2 is a stunning game – awesome graphics and great storyline. In addition, the concepts behind the new multiplayer setup are great. Unfortunately, lag-switchers have sucked the fun right out of public matches. If the cheaters disappeared, GOW2 would never leave my 360 and I’d never get any sleep!” Lady Corthain, TGR forum user.

Does it deserve top twenty status? Hell yes. It does enough to differentiate itself from the first game and provides some memorable moments. Horde mode was a pleasure to play through with friends as we battled our way to Wave 50 and even multiplayer has its moments, but the multiplayer feels like the weakest part of the package. Despite that minor blip, it’s sadistically satisfying to saw another human player in half… but this time after you’ve won a chainsaw dual. Even more satisfying.

 
The gaming world turned back the clock as Ken, Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile and the rest strode back into the limelight with aplomb. The incredible art style from its first trailer captured the gaze of gamers everywhere, even the non-beat ‘em up fans. While released in the arcade first, the console version is a whole different game with the inclusion of exclusive characters and online play. Those who were once the Kings of Street Fighter in their own little worlds now have to contend with getting schooled by the true Street Fighters. Harsh. But if you don’t mind jumping into such a hardcore game then you’ll enjoy the beauty of SFIV — both aesthetically and technically.

What we said: “Simply the best fighter in a long while, and takes back its crown of Fighting Game champion.” 9.5 out of 10

What the fans said: “It can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. All it takes is practice to become a better player. While making alternate outfits DLC did make a lot of fans mad, they will still be playing this game for years to come.” Cody Lev, TGR forum user.

Does it deserve top twenty status? Yes. The strongest of a genre that has been faltering over the years. Despite the release of Soulcalibur IV, the Street Fighter name was needed to revive big interest in the beat ‘em up way of life. The art style is unique and beautiful.

Join us next time for the final part as we dissect Halo 3, CoD4: Modern Warfare, Oblivion, Gears of War, The Orange Box, Bioshock and Grand Theft Auto IV.

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