Achieving the Impossible - Finishing the Back Catalogue Part II | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Achieving the Impossible – Finishing the Back Catalogue Part II

Gaming Editor Nick Burton (almost) finishes his back-catalogue of classic games. Here is Part 2 of the extensive retrospective, looking at everything 360.

Welcome back gamers. This week we'll be taking a look at all the 360 games I played while I caught up with my back-catalogue. There are some absolute classics, as well as some absolute stinkers, and you may be surprised which are which.

The Retrospective Part II – Xbox 360

Red Dead Redemption (360)

Only when you start playing Red Dead Redemption do you realise how we haven’t got a top-notch western video game in, well ever. After completing it, it’s easy to think that this game deservedly
holds the title of ‘best western game in history’. A story that leaves an impression on you for years to come, activities and quests that will make you laugh many-a-time; this is a must-play title. It does have a couple of issues, but you will still have many, many joy-filled hours riding as John Marston: Ex-outlaw given the opportunity to redeem himself for the actions he committed as a young ruffian.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (360)

The game in the decade-long series that most players either missed or refused to play, as it released the very same day as its next-gen partner Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue is the most underrated entry in the series, and there is a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, you play as a Templar Shay Cormac, which opens interesting story dynamics which reflect on the other Assassin’s you’ve played as and their stories.

Not only this, but it also opens up new refreshing gameplay elements, such as hunting down assassins using a similar gameplay mechanic that is found in the Assassin’s Creed multiplayer mode. There’s a lot of recycled material here: whether it’s the cities from Assassin’s Creed III, or the ship mechanics from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Still, I didn’t regret completing this game, and would recommend it to any Assassin Creed fans looking for a fix while they wait for a new entry. Just don’t have high expectation, and you’ll have a surprisingly good time.

Borderlands (360)

I did play a lot of Borderlands when it first came out back in 2009, but never finished all of the add-ons. One of which I didn’t even get to touch until now. Going back to this last-generation classic was nostalgic, and still a hell of a lot of fun to play. Finally finishing the add-ons felt rewarding even after a lot of time had passed, and I was happy to finally experience what death-trap had installed for me via death ninja clap-traps. Replaying this great game geared me up for playing both its sequels for the first time very soon.

Bully: Scholarship Edition (360)

Bully is one of these games that everybody holds in great light when remembering, but play Rockstar’s open-world game based in Bullworth academy, and you’ll see how times have changed. That being said, I still think this is a unique take on the GTA formula, and it does have many admiring factors. I wouldn’t particularly recommend it if you’ve played GTA V (which at this point is half the world’s population), but if you’re interested in playing some of the best games of the last generation, this will be on the list.

Contrast (360)

What an immersive noir, jazz-filled world that contrast offers. Along with a decent story about family, the average gameplay is overridden with a joyous time spent in this unique world built by developers who worked on the original Bioshock. Pick it up if you see it on offer, but I wouldn’t pay more than £10 on this one.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (360)

I really don’t like playing old 2D platformers; They don’t age well, the stories are hilariously bad, and the graphics can make differentiating between items in the game difficult. So, it did come as a complete surprise when playing Symphony of the Night brought a moment of realization of what near-perfect gameplay feels like. I’ll spoil it for you – it feels unbelievable. Possibly the only game I’ve ever played where the gameplay alone has driven me to want to play the game. I know its pretentious to demand a higher story-related reason to play or be motivated to play a video game, but that’s just the world we live in now. Rich characters and deep stories are found in almost every game these days. This game as far as I can tell, has some of the best gameplay of all time. It’s wonderful soundtrack and addictive feeling of discovery kept me wanting to play more of Dracula’s dark and mysterious castle full of weird and terrifying creatures. This is one of the best games of all time, and the best 2D platformer I’ve played.

Bastion (360)

There’s a lot to love about Bastion. It’s cool narrator, it’s intriguing take on gameplay, its bright world and basic but effective gameplay, means this game will enchant you for many hours. Granted, you should perhaps take a look the spiritual successors Transistor and Pyre and see if they take more of your fancy, but trying out one of these pretty great games is a pleasure in itself.

Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars (360)

Who doesn’t love Lego Star Wars? Well, hardly anyone as far as I know. Wanting to pass the time with podcasts and god knows what else meant I wanted to play a game which didn’t require me listening to it, so I can just play it in order to pass the time and keep my mind preoccupied while I did other things. Lego Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars did exactly that. Along with a large selection of levels, this entry also included very basic strategy levels. A nice break from the standard Lego mischief, it contained enough humour, collectibles, and basic entertainment that I could listen to music and podcasts for around 35 hours while being entertained with Lego goodness. Nothing special, but if you’re looking for a background-game as it were, then here’s a fine contender.

Portal (360)

I found Portal quite overrated

Moving on from the previous rant, it’ll come as no surprise to you that I found Portal quite overrated. Yes, it is a puzzle game, and yes, the world is inspiring and the story has twists and turns, but I still hate puzzle games. I did actually complete Portal but I did so reluctantly, and by the end, I was certain that I didn’t want to play through the sequel (that’s why I got my mate to play through it for me). I really enjoy Glad0s and her dialogue, and the game and its sequel are quite ahead of their time, but it doesn’t make me like puzzle games. If you do, then of course these are must play titles. But I’m sure you already know that. P.S. The cake is a lie.

Far Cry 3 (360)

I don’t think a game has proven its strengths to me over such a drawn-out period like Far Cry 3 did. When I started to play, it seemed like your average-joe open-world game, with plenty to do and a psychotic villain to match. (It also had a sick opening sequence with the song ‘Paper Planes’) But after many hours of side missions, finding hideouts and treasure, hacking communication towers, killing tigers with a bow and arrow, and killing mercenaries with whatever I could scrounge off the floor, I realised the story was becoming better and better. The gameplay it had you engage in was changing how your character reacted in certain situations. All of this, along with crafting systems and a variety of weapons and vehicles at your disposal, this game still stands out alongside other sandboxes, but play it soon as its stiff mechanics age badly.

Max Payne 3 (360)

Talk about underrated games, Max Payne 3 must be top of the list. The 3rd entry in the acclaimed Max Payne series blows the other two out of the park. This title, developed by Rockstar, works on so many levels. Its believable voice-acting, ridiculous yet fitting storyline, and strobelight cinematics made playing this game a thrill. It all flows into one chaotic, violent experience which you should all experience. Unless you’re under 18. Then I advise to not venture into the madness of Max Payne’s reality or mind.

Vanquish (360)

Vanquish is a short action game filled with incredible stunts, explosives, and giant robots. Its striking pace means you’re always on the move, and constantly gripped within the battles at hand. There are a few collectibles available, and there are harder difficulties to conquer, but if you’re not up for engaging in these challenges, then this game will only provide a short but effective adrenaline trip. The gameplay is pretty solid, but the story is ridiculous. It does however fit within the context of the game.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (360)

This is probably the best part of GTA IV, since I tried GTA IV: The Lost and Damned and wasn’t really into it, although I appreciated what it was trying to do. GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony is exactly what I look for in a GTA game: blowing up cars, boats and planes, managing multiple love interests at the same time, witnessing extremely comedic dialogue with mentally unstable characters, and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. With enough funds to actually be able to fulfill the latter (unlike the beginning third of GTA IV). A solid chapter of the GTA franchise, I would still recommend GTA addicts give this a go even after they’ve spent hundreds of hours within GTA V’s Los Santos. It’s that fun.

Grand Theft Auto IV (360)

I can tell you right now that this game is not fun

I only played around 6 missions of GTA IV, but I still wanted to write about my experience. I’m not disputing that this game was a great game when it was first released back in April 2008, but I can tell you right now that this game is not fun. At all. I literally spent all of the missions I completed being a taxi. This is GTA we’re talking about here. I’m supposed to be blowing stuff up, shooting gangsters, becoming a Russian mafia king. Perhaps I wasn’t patient enough with the story, and I’m sure you’ll let me know if this is the case, but as far as I’m concerned, this is a game that should be left alone while you dive into the brilliant GTA V instead.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare (360) 

I really want to tell you all how great this standalone DLC for Red Dead Redemption is because I played at least 5 hours of it and got a taste of how good it could’ve been. Sadly however, a small but game-breaking bug stopped me from being able to play it. It literally stopped me from completing any mission. What is this bug you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s a bug that makes the zombies headless, as well as make them infinitely spawn. Why hasn’t Rockstar, one of the best game developers in the world, fixed this bug by now? I have no idea. But rest assured I will not forget this undead nightmare I have experienced. A real shame since I liked Red Dead so much.

FEZ (360)

Why do I continue to write about puzzle platformers even though I’ve already stated how much I hate them? Because I tried really hard to like them. One of these efforts was with the Xbox 360 arcade game Fez. I played this game for a good few hours, but yet again found it boring, frustrating, and unappealing. To me anyway. It does have a unique style with some great sound effects. It also has some unique gameplay elements, although I’m not sure just quite how unique they are in the games market now. Again, if you like this sort of thing, then yeah, it’s alright. Definitely not for me though. Definitely.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (360)

I heard a lot of good things about Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, so I had some expectation for it to be fairly good, despite being reasonably old now. Unfortunately, although the combat was Arkham-like, the performances were good, and the world was interesting, I just got bored by the third chapter. Time is precious, and we must fill our time with playing or watching things we love, or will probably love. Since I did not love this game, I put it down. Almost immediately. Wouldn’t recommend. Just play Hellblade instead. It’s the same developer, and that was in our top 10 games of the year for 2017. Just saying.

Alan Wake (360)

The acting was quite laughable in some place

In similar fashion to Enslaved, I had also heard much praise for this title. But within ten minutes I already knew that this game had been remembered as being far better than what it was. The acting was quite laughable in some places, and although the gameplay was actually pretty good, the acting was just so bad that I had to stop. I’m sure that back when this was released it was alright/good, but not now. I wouldn’t waste your time here. Unless you’re the sort of gamer who relishes in that sort of thing.

Shadow Complex (360) 

Not usually a fan of Metroid-Vania’s since if you’ve played one you’ve played them all, but Shadow Complex actually got its hooks in me for a day or two. Obviously, it’s nothing on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (go Alucard) but it was fun to play, and actually had me grabbing quite a few of its collectibles whilst I was exploring its stereotypical military base. There was more story here than I had anticipated, but nothing stand-out. Still, if you can get it on the cheap, you can find a good few nights of entertainment if you like 2.5D Metroid-Vania’s.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (360)

‘Nick, you really need to play Reckoning’, ‘Nick the gameplay is so good and so fun’, ‘Nick, Reckoning is actually alright’. All of these statements are in fact, lies. There is much to appreciate in launching a new RPG fantasy series against the likes of The Elder Scrolls, but Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning just didn’t match up to the league of a franchise like The Elder Scrolls at all. I didn’t find the combat that good (maybe I was playing it wrong, I don’t know?), and while the voice-acting, characters, and world were interesting enough, I had better RPGs to play. I’m looking at you Fallout 4.

Bioshock (360)

It seems fitting to move onto another game which has a spoiler that could ruin the entire experience if you already know it before playing. Again, I did know the twist, but unexpectedly, it did not ruin the experience. In fact, there’s so much to soak in from the world of rapture, the twist is just one of many great things about this seminal game. It features much Philosophy on the idea of a dystopian-liberal society, with the inclusion of diabolical enemies like the big daddies and splicers, as well as the cute but lethal little sisters. Great upgrade systems and collectibles, along with a cleverly designed open-world (kind of) level design, I really don’t feel the need to convince you to play Bioshock. Its accolades stand tall enough for all to see.

Halo: Reach (360)

The Halo games hold a special place in my heart. As they are some of my favourite FPS games, I was extremely eager to see what the fuss was about when it came to Halo: Reach. A mixed reaction from the fans, it was enlightening to finally see why people disliked or liked the last Halo entry developed by original developers Bungie. By the time I finished the finale, I liked Halo: Reach. Though experiencing many network problems while trying to play this in co-op with my friend using Xbox One backwards compatibility didn’t help in my attempt to appreciate this game. Although the story is good and the levels are memorable, there seems to be something absent when it comes to Halo: Reach. Maybe I’m being petty and it’s just playing as the don the Master Chief that’s what I miss in this game, but there are some of the best ever Halo levels on this entry. Play it if you fancy a campaign which is better than your average FPS campaign, and definitely experience it if you’re a Halo fan. It’s a touching goodbye.

Gears of War: Judgement (360)

Gears of War: Judgement is the most different Gears of War game by far. It’s designed so that you spend more time out of cover, than in cover. And for a cover-based shooter, that’s pretty different. I had a great time playing through this campaign, and although the gameplay does stand out in its own way from the other games (you’ll either love it or hate it), it feels fitting to return to the original mechanics when you play through a scene which features in Gears of War 3 that’s in Judgement. Worth playing through once if you’re an action fan, though it doesn’t feature many big action pieces. If you’re a Gears fan, you’ve probably already played it, and you already have your own opinions. If you haven’t and you’re a Gears fan, I think it’s worth your time for sure. 

Beyond Good and Evil HD (360)

Being a cult classic, and a promising sequel just recently announced at E3 2017, I thought it wise to experience the first adventure of Jade and her pig companion Pey’j. This game is bursting with originality, great combat mechanics, enticing collectibles, personality and a compulsion to finish. Another example of proving cynical gamers wrong in how old games can still be relevant today as they were when they were released many years ago. I liked this game a lot more than I thought I would. If you can pick it up cheap (the HD version mind you) give it a go. That is, if you like action-adventure games from the PS2 era that still give you a sense of nostalgia, even if you never played it when it was released, which let’s be honest, is probably most of you.

Dishonored (360)

On paper, I should love Dishonored. All of the different elements are there working well, and they all tick the boxes of what I love: a unique-ish brush paint graphic style, an industrial-fantasy world filled with magic spells and spiritual beings, great level design and gamer choice. The linear aspect of Dishonored however puts a big damper on the whole experience for me. This game doesn’t work for me personally, but I’m glad it does for so many others. I wouldn’t want to see an end for such an appraised series, so I think you should try this game for yourself.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (360)

Disclaimer* - I know that Jim Sterling in a Jimquisition video says this about Skyrim, but as far as I’m aware, I’ve stated the same thing long before he said it in his video. I wanted to make people aware I know about this video, and am not attempting to copy his statements or witty style. Just upholding what I thought about the game.

I love Skyrim. F*** Skyrim.

I love Skyrim. F*** Skyrim. I don’t love it as much as its predecessor The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but I have played Skyrim for hundreds of hours. It’s obviously popular, since there’s 782 editions on all the different platforms, and yet I eventually boycotted this game instead of completing its DLCs. Why? Because its broken. It is a broken game. Has anybody actually played Skyrim without encountering a bug that stops them from completing an important quest? I doubt it. I’ve played many hours of Skyrim, and love the world and the much-improved graphics over Oblivion, but seriously Bethesda, have a team continually work on your games so that they can fix bugs which will never go away. I love Skyrim. F*** Skyrim. Its broken.

Fable Anniversary (360)

Fable is one of my all-time favourite series. Except for that Kinect spin-off and Fable 3 – the most forgettable game I’ve ever played. Alright, so I adore the first two Fable games. Fable 2 being the most recent exploration of the franchise, being given the opportunity to revisit the first Fable (my favourite) was better than I could’ve imagined. Its funny British humour, deep fantasy lore, and basic but suitable levelling systems made this revisit one of the best ever in gaming. The style is more similar to Fable 2 than a recreation of the original Fable, but it suits it well. It’s not perfect, and has some noticeable issues which you would’ve hoped they had removed because it’s a remaster, but it’s still great. Also having the chance to play The Lost Chapters, something which I never got to do, was a great fulfilment after all these years.

L.A. Noire (360)

I can see why L.A. Noire captured peoples interest, and the facial animations are very impressive considering when the game was made. Overall however, the game is pretty boring. Investigating who did what is interesting enough, but that being the main mechanic just didn’t do enough for me to warrant playing it to the end, if at all.

Fallout: New Vegas (360) 

This game is the one on this list that I am most likely to return to. I found it so hard to go from playing the fluid controls of Fallout 4 to the janky and stiff controls of Fallout: New Vegas. I’m not blaming the game; it’s an old game. But as far as I’m concerned, playing a couple of hours shew me more than enough evidence that this is literally Fallout 3 with a new layer of skin and some new content. I cannot see at all how this is the best Fallout (because it isn’t) but I will try and replay this game at some point in the future. It’s going to be even more difficult though after completing The Witcher 3, so we’ll just wait and see what happens.

Mass Effect 3 (360)

I didn’t find an issue with the ending at all

The first game I completed in my attempt to catch-up with the back catalogue. Much intrigue surrounded Mass Effect 3 and its controversial ending, and I had anticipated a pretty awful ending because of the fuss that was made back when it was originally released. To great surprise, playing through the entire game on insanity and completing all the side missions, I didn’t find an issue with the ending at all. In fact, I thought it was a fine ending. It capped off what was an amazing journey, rounding off one of the best trilogies in gaming without a doubt. It was such a pleasure to complete this game, and I hope people remember the good rather than the bad. I found much more to appreciate and love than to complain about here.

Thank you for reading again this week. Next week will be the last part of my retrospective, and it will include all the games I played on my current main gaming console, my Xbox One. I also played some classics on PC, such as Half-Life 2 and Gone Home. To find out which ones I hated, and which I loved, tune in again next week to read the finale to my extensive retrospective.

A 3rd year Philosophy student at the University of Birmingham. Interested in giving honest opinions with others. Thinking and being passionate are my favourite hobbies, other than listening to Metallica. (@Nic_the_thinker)



Published

3rd February 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

Rockstar Games, IGDB and Microsoft



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