FGotY 2009 [Xbox 360]

Wrapping up the individual console posts is the Xbox 360.

Jason O – 2009 was definitely the year where the XBox 360 was the dominant platform in my house. A lot of good games graced my disc tray. Borderlands was bordering on greatness but couldn’t quite pass cross into becoming a classic. Lego Rock Band was solid but uninspired. Modern Warfare 2 brought us more of the same but was still quality entertainment. Shadow Complex gave me a brief and enjoyable foray into a game genre that I consider well past its prime. While I may not be playing it any longer, I think the most fun I had with a game this year was Red Faction: Guerilla. All I really ask from an “open world” game is to be open enough to let me solve problems with my own style. Red Faction: Guerrilla delivered on this. The real pity is that once you’ve beaten the game and levelled most of the buildings on Mars there isn’t much reason to keep playing. Lack of replayability aside, I don’t think there has been any game this year that has been so much fun from start to finish.

James – I think the game that I had the most fun with would be Prototype I wasn’t expecting more than to be able to run around and destroy everything HULK-style and I pretty much was able to do that. It did get repetitive and I never ended up finishing it but I think I had the most fun with it while I was playing it.

Nat – The Xbox sat a little bit on the back-burner in our house this year. However, it did get some play time. I’m going to go against a lot of gamer’s ideas and say that I had the most fun with The Beatles: Rock Band this year. Not really knowing much about the group, it was a great interactive, historical trip. ‘Splosion Man gets and awfully close second for laughs alone.

Brock – The 360 has been gathering dust a lot around our house especially during the last half of this year. That said, I’d have to give my pick for the most fun game I’ve played on the system this year to ‘Splosion Man. Even when I was hurling the controller around the room in a fit of rage after dying yet again thanks to some of the most sadistic platforming I’ve ever done, I couldn’t help but smile while doing so. The crazy antics, awesome music (did you know that everybody loves donuts?) and mind-bending ending made this my pick of the year when it comes to fun on the 360. Plus, Twisted Pixel were the first to give away free Avatar awards for getting achievements. How cool is that?

Will – The Xbox 360 gets the most use around my house. When I look back at the games that were an obsession for me, the ones that had me thinking about them when I wasn’t playing them, I came up with the following list: Halo 3: ODST, Borderlands, Shadow Complex, and Dragon Age: Origins. I give my FGotY 2009 [Xbox 360] award to Borderlands. I spent a lot of time trying to sell this game on fans of console FPSes. I told them that its four-player cooperative play was a great deal a fun. I told them that there was something very gratifying about constantly collecting loot and comparing that new shotgun to your good old reliable one that got you through that epic fight with Skagzilla. I told them that four different classes, each with multiple skills trees, made for a decent amount of customization. I think I spent as much time trying to sell the game on others as I did on playing it; my Soldier character has fifty-two hours devoted to him alone! I enjoyed this game so much that I also have a copy of the PC version. I spent all that time marketing the game for Gearbox because I know a lot of gamers who would get a lot of enjoyment out of Borderlands‘ unique blend of FPS and RPG, but they deprived themselves of the opportunity to partake in its fun because they were waiting for Modern Warfare 2 to be released. Hopefully Gearbox will release a GotY edition that includes The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned and Mad Moxxi’s Underdome to capture the gamers they missed the first time.

Tony – My 360 definitely got a work out this year. I think I’ve finally hit almost every major release this year on the console, and it definitely was a great year for the 360. I thought long and hard about which game I had the most fun with. In the running were many of the titles already mentioned here by my co-bloggers and I’ll also mention having a lot of fun with Forza Motorsports 3 and Left 4 Dead 2. but in the end, the game I had the most fun with was Batman: Arkham Asylum. It took me a few hours to get into the game, but after the first Scarecrow level, I was in – hook, line and sinker. Then, once I got used the fighting system and felt comfortable and in the flow, the game opened up ten fold. There is nothing more satisfying than stringing up a bad guy from a gargoyle, drop silently behind his buddy to take him down and then take out a third with a batarang in quick succession. After I saw the 2005 Batman Begins, I wanted to be Batman. As Nat mentioned in the PS3 post, in Batman: AA, I was Batman. It doesn’t get any funner than that!

2 Minute Review: Shadow Complex

shadow_complex01

An old school throwback with all modern bells and whistles

DO: Indulge your sense of nostalgia over a game genre that’s time has largely past. Alternatively, if you’re not a gaming dinosaur, find out why everyone loved Metroid so much.

TYPE: Side-Scrolling Platformer

PLATFORM: XBox 360 (Reviewed)

PRICE: $15

MEAT: You play as Jason Fleming (sidenote: More protagonists should be named “Jason”. It’s an awesome name.) who appears to be an everyman in the same way Steven Seagal’s character in Under Siege was “just a cook”. In a very brief flashback we’re given that Jason’s mysterious background includes some kind of training because his father is some kind of super-spy and/or warrior badass and wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Despite his attempt at a normal life he finds himself unwittingly drawn into a plot against the United States when he, and I’m not making this up, stumbles into the base of a homegrown terrorist organization thanks to an outing with his “girlfriend” that was supposed to be nothing more than some hiking and spelunking. I used “girlfriend” in quotes because despite the marketing materials for the game they also establish that Jason and Claire have been dating for all of two days. The lengths he goes through for a woman he met at a bar is nothing short of epic.

I wouldn’t usually bother with the back story, but in this case the story is very much part of the gameplay and it does a great job. For a side-scroller I don’t expect much since you’re artificially confined in your actions, yet the action onscreen and the story presentation flow together perfectly. Your character is upgraded gradually and as you unlock new abilities you can backtrack to previously visited locations to acquire upgrades that were inaccessible before. Despite all the backtracking, the ability to explore a section in a way that wasn’t previously possible keeps the game interesting even though you may have visited the same room multiple times.

Just a minor spoiler, but what you have is a guy who starts out with a flashlight and the ability to jump who gradually ends up with a suit of incredible power armor that gives him abilities beyond that of normal men.

PERKS: In my opinion these kinds of retro-retreads are unnecessary since technology has since advanced enough that we can move beyond the old “side scroller”. There is a reason the Metroid series went first person. The only reason why I’m reviewing this game is because I downloaded the demo just to see what all the fuss was about.

Then something miraculous happened.

The game was just ridiculously fun to play. Save points occur often enough that the game can be played in short bursts, if you can actually force yourself to turn it off, but are far enough apart that there is a real challenge. The controls, for the most part, are excellently done. One of my long-standing complaints with platformers, even those that fuse with side-scrolling shooters, is the lack of precision in controlling the character. Aiming your weapons is a bit of a challenge at first, but with practice becomes fairly simple. I never felt like I was struggling with the controls and that is incredibly important.

The actual “Shadow Complex” is vast with many varied environments, hazards, and enemies. The game has an excellent pace, keeping the player engaged and allowing them to flex some muscle on occasion while making sure they get fresh challenges. I really appreciate that as you acquire new abilities some of the early opponents that are quite difficult become easy to dispatch in a variety of satisfying ways. Naturally, the game keeps ramping up the “bosses” so it never gets too easy but the player is not exposed to a challenge too early either.

The first boss fight sold me the game

The first boss fight sold me the game

SCREAMS: The game is “2.5D”, so there are times when you have side hallways that enemies can approach but you can’t travel down. In theory you can aim and shoot them, but sometimes you have your gun pointed at enemies and other times it’s pointing straight up. In this case the controls try to interpret your intention and it doesn’t always work.

Your ability to “wall climb” is limited, which is ok except that sometimes the game doesn’t register your attempt to jump off one wall to another Jackie Chan style. Also, one of your abilities is a grappling hook which is tons of fun but has the same problem as the wall climb. It can be very frustrating to see your grappling line bounce ineffectually off of a wall or ceiling.

Perhaps a personal preference, the game has many areas that are inaccessible early on that you can later unlock by using upgrades the game gives you. The problem here is that the upgrades needed seem to come about midway through the game, but then come quite often. This is kind of frustrating though because you can see areas that have extras you could get to but have to continually ignore because you haven’t acquired missiles yet or can’t double jump.

A common complaint is that you can trigger the endgame by accident. The good news is that if this happens you can simply end and restart from your last continue. This way you can still get any upgrades you may have missed. You cannot trigger the endgame sequence without at least having the basic abilities to beat it, so the game at least gives players the possibility of winning, though the challenge may be greater than it has to be if they are not sufficiently prepared.

Screenshots will not do this game justice

Screenshots will not do this game justice

VERDICT: Let me be clear here, this is my “2009 Game I Can’t Put Down” and I truly do feel this entire genre is well past it’s prime. This is a game I was determined to hate and love it anyway. You can’t rent it and I would recommend this as a BUY even if you could.

Everybody loves donuts!

Everybody loves donuts! I knew before I even fired my first shot that Shadow Complex would be a game I would purchase today. Mmm. Donuts! Vroom Vroom CRASH! Auuuggh.(This post would not be as confusing if you are remotely aware of some of the latest XBLA offerings).