Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty has never belonged to one system, but Modern Warfare 2 was the first year the series had an exclusive DLC window with the Xbox 360. Players were given access to new maps a month before anyone else, and it’s a relationship that went on until the release of Black Ops 3 this year.
The multiplayer is the main draw for this franchise, and MW2 nails it. Connection issues aside, there’s a plethora of game modes to go through, and an impressive arsenal of weapons for you to experiment with. The leveling and perks system truly goes into full addict mode here, rewarding experimentation with constant enhancements to your loadout. Want to dual wield shotguns and be able to deploy a turret? Carry a rocket launcher and throw knives like no one’s business? Modern Warfare 2 seems to agree, and that’s without throwing the game winning nuke into the equation. Whether it’s that or the Spec Ops co-op, Modern Warfare 2 was an absolute dream to play with friends on the 360.
Originally a little mini game in Project Gotham Racing 2, Geometry Wars was a downloadable launch title for the Xbox 360 way back in 2005. It was initially created by Bizarre to test out the original Xbox controller, but you wouldn’t know from just how dang fun it is.
If you never played Geometry Wars, think Space Invaders amped up to 100. More enemies and bright visuals in your face seems and at times does get really headache inducing, but it’s balanced out by the game being a fun ride from start to finish. The lack of multiplayer is almost forgiven by just how fun it is to spend hours shooting it up in bright environments. The sequels are just as great to be sure, but the original will always have a place as a fantastic 360 game.
Peter Molyneux’s track record is all over the map, but Fable II is admittedly a shot in the arm the series needed, taking a good idea and reworking it into something awesome. Lionhead’s second installment improves upon near everything from the original to great success.
From a starting point of an orphan getting shot in face and going after the man who killed your sister, the story pulls you in with a variety of choices and fun characters. While the combat is what makes it a great action game, the fun here is roaming through Albion and discovering what the land has to hide. Even when you’re being guided along with the glowing trail, diverging from the path is sure to reward you with treasure or a choice that’ll affect the rest of the world. Plus, you can kick chickens! What’s so bad about that?
Each of the Big Three has a racing franchise to call their own, and Microsoft’s is Forza. While it first showed up on the original Xbox in 2005, Turn 10 brought it to the Xbox 360 with Forza 2 in 2007. It’s a great game to be sure, but its sequel is where it truly shines.
Forza 3 is easily one of the best racing games ever, partly in thanks to its fantastic controls and breadth of cars and locations to choose from. If you’ve ever wanted to race in the Mugello Circuit or Tsukuba, this game definitely delivers. Being able to correct mistakes with a rewind feature is a much appreciated godsend, as is its accessibility features. Each entry in the series has been great, but nothing can quite beat Forza 3 in terms of pure fun.
Gears of War 2
The original Gears of War hit the Xbox 360 in 2006 and showed that Epic had a great graphics engine to show off gore and dismemberment. Gears 2 takes those successes and asks, “How can we make this even greater?” Luckily, Cliffy B came up with the “Three Bs.”
Gears 2’s mantra was “bigger, better, more badass,” and it definitely shows in every facet. Chainsaw duels, mortar strikes, and riding a giant raptor with machine guns strapped on its back are the order of the day, and that’s just the story mode. The signature mechanics from the last game are tuned to perfection, offering better cover and reload, and letting you take advantage of the environment to survive another day. Multiplayer is a whole other beast, delivering addicting hours of gory fun while never feeling too chaotic. Even the series’ now famous Horde mode has an order to it that escalates until it feels like you and your four friends are making a final stand against the Locust. Certainly bigger, indeed more badass, and a hell of a lot better.
Technically speaking, the Xbox 360 was the first platform to get Bastion, even if only for a while. Supergiant’s first game hit the system during the Summer of Arcade event in 2011. In it, you play the Kid as he attempts to build a Bastion that can hold survivors of the Calamity that ravaged their world.
Roaming through the destroyed remains of Caelondia through the eyes of the Kid would be a compelling game in and of itself thanks to the art direction, but it’s the music and narration that make Bastion a winner. Darren Korb’s music meshes perfectly with Logan Cunningham’s buttery smooth narration. Every tune fits the environments perfectly to a T, and the narration makes you feel like you’re playing through an action-packed children’s story, even if it’s one that doesn’t entirely hook players like it could. Combat, admittedly, has more depth than it does challenge (attack and roll away, and you’re golden for most battles), but that’s a minor issue in Bastion’s solid core. If you still own a 360 and haven’t picked it up yet on other systems, you definitely should give it a try.
Mass Effect 2
Bioware’s sci-fi RPG saga had a good effort in 2007, but the series really found itself with the release of Mass Effect 2 in 2010. While fans were upset at the slimming of RPG options in favor of a more shooter bent and the disappearance of the Mako for a hover tank, it ends up working in the game’s favor. The combat feels more immediate than before, and the addition of powers and mods to your guns helps turn a losing battle into your favor.
More than anything, Mass Effect 2 succeeds just by having a rich group of characters to interact with. While some returning characters don’t get their due (sorry, Virmire survivor), the cast is filled with likable and charming individuals that you have to trust as much as they trust you. Not only does it help you get through the final mission of the game, but you’re rewarded by learning more about the team that inhabits your ship. Throw in some fun DLC adventures on top of the stellar core game, and you’re all set for a great time.
Based on a famous sci-fi novel, Shadow Complex came at the perfect time when downloadable content meant you’d spend $10 for horse armor or a stupidly brief experience. Thankfully, Epic and Chair entertainment decided to make sure Xbox 360 owners got their money’s worth.
Admittedly, nothing is all that new about the gameplay; it’s equal parts Metroid and Castlevania. The real fun comes in how the game puts those pieces together. You’re always rewarded for exploring with new weapons or power ups to help you get around. Fighting the Restoration is at its best during large set piece moments, like goading an enemy into drowning itself. Combined with the addictive leaderboard system, and you’ve got one hell of a game at $15.
A lot of people look at Crackdown as a paid entry to the Halo 3 beta, and while that’s more than the case for a lot of its success, Crackdown succeeds as an Xbox 360 title just by being really fucking awesome.
Its gameplay is really simple, all you have to do is kill the guys who don’t like you. But it’s the matter in which you kill those people that elevates the game; whether you shoot them with the multitude of weapons at your disposal, beat them with your bare fists, or just plain run them over with your car, the game rewards you for it by upgrading your skills so you could get better at killing. The real draw, though, comes in the collectibles that pepper Pacific City. All 500 Agility Orbs are just addicting to go hunting for, and since collecting them is how your Agent can increase their Agility to jump higher, it practically enables you to keep wanting to go after them. Combined with the fun co-op, and you’ve got a near perfect sandbox game to take away hours of your day.
Bungie’s first outing on the Xbox 360 was already highly anticipated thanks to the success of the multiplayer beta and cliffhanger ending to Halo 2. If nothing else, the trailers and news about campaign scoring and four player co-op would probably have been enough to sway gamers.
While the scoring and co-op help make the campaign a mostly consistent thrill ride, Bungie excels at competitive multiplayer. 16 players has been what they’ve worked with in the past, and it continues here across a fun range of modes, ranging from classics like Capture the Flag and Slayer, to new ones like Grifball. The maps remain some of the best in the series, from Guardian and Snowblind to Blackout and Valhalla. Weapons can be a bit varied in terms of balance, but the use of gadgets help even the playing field. Whatever you think of the game as a whole, there’s no denying that Bungie’s first journey with the 360 was a smashing success.
What’s your favorite Xbox 360 game? Let us know in the comments below!