Specials: America, #@*& Yea!! Off to save the mother&^@%$*! day...
With the Xbox 360 less than 8 weeks from launch, I thought it might be a good time to take a look back on just how far the upstart Xbox has come since it debuted in 2001 with little more than impressive specs and one AAA piece of software. I've spent a lot of time playing and reviewing Xbox games and I look forward to doing the same with its successor but for now, for those of you that actually care, these are my top Xbox gaming experiences over the last four years?
Splinter Cell/Pandora Tomorrow/Chaos Theory
The finest stealth game series to date, the adventures of Sam Fisher have thoroughly captivated me (and a lot of other gamers as well). Yes, it's multiplatform, but the Xbox versions of all 3 titles were clearly the best (not to mention the games were designed for the Xbox from the ground up).
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - April 25th, 2003
This is the one that started it all. Amazing lighting and shadow effects put SC over the top visually and the innovative stealth play mechanics kept gamers coming back for more?
You have the right to spy, steal, destroy and assassinate, to ensure that American freedoms are protected. If captured, the U.S. government will disavow any knowledge of your existence.
You are Sam Fisher.
You are a Splinter Cell.
As SC opens, you're introduced to Sam Fisher, a decorated vet with a knack for operating covertly through some of the most hostile territory in the world. Working for a branch of the NSA called Third Echelon, Sam is the go to guy for those thoroughly impossible situations. To get this kind of job done, Sam will have to think strategically, and use every ounce of his skill and intelligence to remain invisible. Throughout the course of the adventure, Sam will have to infiltrate heavily fortified buildings (including the CIA), pick locked doors, set traps, disarm mines, hack into computers, rappel down walls, and use a solid array of neat tools. Chief among these are his night-vision goggles, which allow him to see in the dark, and also double as thermal vision. His 5.72mm SC pistol tactical model with single-action trigger and 20 round magazine comes complete with a silencer/flash suppressor, though the real workhorse of Sam's arsenal remains the 5.56mm SC-20K Assault Rifle. The configuration makes it light and compact without sacrificing firepower, and its multi-purpose launcher is ideal for blasting the latest hi-tech weaponry at enemies. Ring airfoil projectiles, gas grenades, sticky shockers (a high voltage discharge device coated in adhesive resin), distraction cameras (there's nothing like firing one of these babies down the hall and taking several guards out with noxious gas when they come to investigate), and sticky cameras afford the freedom to drop enemies in a variety of fun and interesting ways. For those of you who've been playing the game since its release, you know the insane realism and action this title brings to the table. Stunning visuals, a great story, intense mission scenarios, and a main character that can do anything you'd want or expect, add up to one of the best games to hit the shelves in a long time. The gold standard in stealth simulations.
Pandora Tomorrow ? March 23, 2003
With the introduction of an incredibly innovative multiplayer component, the second game in the Splinter Cell series hits all the right notes?
The multiplayer portion of Pandora Tomorrow is most assuredly something very special. Trust me, once you start playing, you won't want to stop. The tension that ratchets up as you move through dark corridors as a merc, with only a small cone of light in front of you to guide your way -- while wondering if a spy is sneaking up behind you -- is out of this world, and sneaking around as a spy is equally nerve-wracking, but I promise: it's the most fun you've ever had with your clothes on.
Chaos Theory ? April 11, 2005
The third time's a charm for sure, as Chaos Theory brings everything you love about the series into the most complete package yet?
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is the crown jewel in a trio of AAA titles that has firmly ensconced itself as the gold standard in the genre of stealth action gaming. With an amazing single player campaign that may be Sam Fisher's greatest adventure yet, to a fantastic tie-in story 4 mission co-op mode, as well as the return of the award winning online multiplayer game, Chaos Theory is the ultimate package. Quite probably the best visual presentation of this generation - coupled with pitch perfect control and gameplay mechanics, as well as an intense story - SC: CT no doubt deserves a place in the Xbox hall of fame. Whether it's the special collector's edition with loads of cool extras, or the regular version, I urge you not to miss what's likely the finest adventure yet for the Xbox, and a standing achievement of this generation. Get it now...
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Halo is the
killer app that made the Xbox what it is today. Combining all the best ideas from PC and earlier console FPS, some cool innovations and an amazing story with iconic, memorable characters and a rich sci-fi universe, Bungie hit it out of the park with Halo. The demand for the sequel was insane, with midnight madness sales going on and gamers lining up to get their hands on a copy. While the campaign was as kick-ass as the first game (though certain pundits may disagree) it was the multiplayer on Xbox Live that put Halo 2 over the top. To this day, nearly a year after its release, players continue to log massive hours playing. Despite some issues with cheaters and other online nonsense, Bungie has admirably supported their title, as well as the entire Halo 2 fan community. We certainly had plenty of praise for both games?
Halo: Combat Evolved ? November 20, 2001
If you don't have an Xbox, or have one without Halo for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and buy this game. At the very least, you owe yourself a rental or two. Halo is a masterpiece that just has to be experienced to be believed. Whether you go it alone, or with a friend, or 15 friends, Halo is something you owe yourself to play. In the words of The Game, Halo is just ?that damn good.?
? Patrick Geurs
Halo 2 ? November 16, 2004
Halo 2 is a fantastic example of pure artistic vision coupled with serious technological know-how. Bungie has delivered a fascinating sequel that will have gamers everywhere frothing at the mouth for the next installment. Fortunately, they've included a multiplayer mode so deep and complex, it should easily hold most of us over until Halo 3. Stand up and take a bow guys, you've delivered the goods in spades. Now get crackin' on Halo 3.
Peter Molyneux may have gotten himself in some hot water with gamers because of inflated claims, however, considering the masterpiece that Fable turned out to be, he certainly has no reason to apologize?
Fable ? October 22, 2004
Now I walk the wilds of Albion as a conqueror -- a creator, a savior, a friend, and an ally. I've seen sights that would make the average man's blood run cold. I have battled bandits, and felt the delicious bite of revenge coursing through me whenever I ran my cold steel through another evil raider. I've seen the Undead, rising from the ground beneath my feet. I've faced the wild Balverine - foul, scuttling beasts with slavering jaws and blood red eyes. I've been a protector, and a thief. A lover, a fighter, a gladiator?.a King.
I've walked through Headsman's Hill, and seen the cages that await the unfortunate. I've walked through Lynchfield Graveyard, and felt the chill wind on my neck. I've walked through the dark marshes, and faced what awaited me there. I've walked this world, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, always aware of the seductive whisper of evil that beckons me.
Who could forget the flagship Xbox Live title that created a rabid fan community and brought incredible giant mech combat to the masses?
MechAssault ? January 28, 2003
I figured I'd focus this particular editorial on MechAssault, my personal favorite amongst the launch titles and one astounding game, particularly online. It's an interesting community, spawned by a game that may tout itself as a less sim-based representation of the Battle Tech world than its PC counterparts, yet sparks such passionate discussions regarding weapons, mechs and tactics that one would never have guessed that fact. Mech pilots are ardent about their favorite (or least favorite) mech, and endless threads about the much-maligned Mad Cat (head into battle in one of these babies, and PPC whore is the least offensive thing you'll be called) grace message boards everywhere. Rivalries, endless speculation about the downloadable content, challenges, and cooperative team play are all fair game for discussion. Though what's really important is the game itself, and the fun factor when you step onto the battlefield with 75 tons of fury that just so happens to be bristling with weapons of mass destruction. Let me be the first to tell you if you haven't yet experienced it first hand: it really doesn't get much better than this.
Ok, that's it so far. However, I'm certainly not done yet as there's still a plethora of incredible games that deserve mention. Join us again on Thursday for part 2 of Best of the Xbox.