Xbox 360 Games That Need to be Backwards Compatible

Xbox 360 LogoMicrosoft announced this week that in the next update coming to the Xbox One, Xbox 360 titles that are part of the backwards compatibility feature will be able to be purchased from the Xbox Live Store right on the Xbox One. They’ve been good about making the Games with Gold games be backwards compatible, but there’s always been that one little barrier that might be keeping people from picking them up – you needed to either still log on the 360 to “buy” them, or go on to the Marketplace on Xbox.com to do the same. Hopefully bringing the 360’s marketplace to the Xbox One will open up a whole bunch of classics from the last generation to make the backwards compatible leap. So with that in mind, I thought I’d pick out a couple 360 games that really need to be brought into the backwards compatible program – if for no reason other than new gamers really should play them.

BioShock CoverWe’ll start with the BioShock series. I’ve seen a couple rumors floating around that there are plans to bring them forward in an HD/Definitive Edition Collection, similar to what 2K did with Borderlands. Assuming that doesn’t come to fruition, the three games should at least come forward as backwards compatibility titles. The first game is arguably one of the best story driven shooters of all time, and is in my personal top five for the entire 360’s library. There’s a lot of depth in the combat with the Plasmid system, bringing in a little RPG flavor to a shooter with a ton of character, and one of the most intriguing settings in modern gaming with Rapture. The sequel was a little bit of a stumble – I wouldn’t call it a step back, but it wasn’t the step forward that maybe it should have been. There are some really cool innovations – playing as a prototype Big Daddy was awesome, and being able to wield a Plasmid and weapon at the same time made combat a little more fluid. Where I think the biggest misstep was with BioShock 2 was the addition of multiplayer, which felt a little forced to me. Luckily, BioShock Infinite brought the series back to really solid ground, even when the game wasn’t set on particularly solid ground. It took the ideas that the first game presented, married it with the updated action from the second, and then ran with them. I’d love to see that HD collection happen, but if not, these games really need to be available through backwards compatibility.

Another game on my personal top 1o list is Dead Space – the first game is still one of the best examples of survival horror, using a pretty standard sci-fi setting and cranking the terror up through immersive storytelling and unique enemy interaction. When we think survival horror, we think zombies – that’s just the nature of the beast thanks mainly to Resident Evil. With Dead Space, the tried and true zombie killing approach was turned on its head – the game punishes you for shooting the Necromorphs in the head. The most base instinct of any gun-based combat actually is the wrong answer – beheading them makes them much more dangerous; instead the game, using in-world assets (messages sprawled on the walls in blood) to tell you to shoot their limbs. The sequels got a little away from the real sensation of claustrophobia that the Ishimora had in the first game, opting for an increasing focus on combat. As much as I prefer to see full series available on backwards compatibility, the first Dead Space really needs to come forward.

Dragon Age OriginsI have three more groups of games that I want to talk about today. Each is relevant to the current gaming market in different ways, and each is cemented in that conversation of “best of the generation.” We’ll start with the Dragon Age games. I actually just reinstalled Dragon Age: Inquisition to my Xbox One, since it was cleared when my box died back in October. BioWare is one of my favorite developers – their characters and stories are consistently some of the best in gaming across the board. They’ve proven that they can craft engaging stories, with characters that feel real, in worlds that feel lived in; and still have the gameplay to keep players invested in RPGs that can easily creep up into that 60 hour range. Dragon Age takes that idea and brings in the classic Dungeons and Dragons mechanics to the combat. BioWare used that same d20 system in their first third-person RPG, Knights of the Old Republic. Dragon Age just brought that d20 system back to high fantasy, and makes sure to have a story in place that makes sense and is engaging. Since the third game did so well on the current-gen consoles, it really just makes sense to bring the first two games to backward compatibility. There’s not a huge amount of connection, outside of certain characters and story/world elements linking the third game to the first two, so new players might not have the same background with the Lore.

Sticking with BioWare, their other main franchise is another that’s in my top five: Mass Effect. I’ve talked in the past about how much I want an HD collection of the Shepard trilogy on the current-gen consoles, if for no reason other than to tide me over until Mass Effect Andromeda. Baring that, those three games really should be available to play through the backwards compatibility on Xbox One. They’re a more balanced blend of RPG and shooter mechanics, mainly because of the realtime combat, and use of a third-person cover system. With these kind of genre blended games becoming much more common, I think bringing an example of not only one of the earliest blended shooter/RPGs, but still one of the best of those games. Shepard’s story is both grand and intimate, the themes that lie underneath this huge space sci-fi epic are decidedly human. It is one of the first modern games I can remember to put a big emphasis on player choices and decisions. The idea of Paragon and Renegade playthroughs, character interactions that put actual value on your responses, and an ending that, in theory, is driven by player choice all were super innovative nine years ago. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who either missed the series because they were too young, or because they weren’t into RPGs or whatever other reasons you can think of – bringing them to backwards compatibility means that a new generation of players could sit down and play through one of the best trilogies of games ever. Since the first game is on the list, I don’t know why the other two haven’t been added yet.

SkyrimFinally, one last set of games – Bethesda’s RPGs. Fallout 3 is already available – it came with Fallout 4 – but their other three RPGs: Fallout New VegasElder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim all haven’t made the leap yet. With Fallout 4 starting its DLC season shortly, the time might be a little crunched, but I definitely think that they really belong on the list. New Vegas added in a lot more RPG depth to the characters, and Hardcore mode is a totally unique way of playing Bethesda RPGs. The Elder Scrolls games were the RPGs, especially Oblivion that started me getting into more traditional and deeper RPGs as opposed to Pokemon and Final Fantasy. With Elder Scrolls Online on the current-gen consoles, I think it makes sense to try and put at least Skyrim on that backwards list, if it isn’t already. I know that studios are starting to really pull away from the last generation – and that’s been something I’ve wanted to see from developers for about a year now – but there are still games from last-gen that I think can exist with the backwards compatibility. I don’t know how much effort it takes to put them on that list of games that is backwards compatible, but if I were Microsoft, I know that I would really be trying to get Skyrim on there.

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A Question to Ponder: Part Two – Bad Games to Live In

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareYesterday I brought up a hypothetical question that I’ve been thinking on this week. If you had the ability, what game universes would be the best ones to hop into and live in for a while. We set a couple ground rules – you would be the main character, the game rules all still apply, and should you game over, you are banned from that world for some period of time. Yesterday I picked out a couple universes that I thought would be good ones to live in. Today, let’s hit the other side of the spectrum – the bad games to hop into.

CALL OF DUTY
Really this could just say any FPS game here, but I singled out Call of Duty mainly because of one reason. Any Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare has featured massive set pieces. Buildings exploding, tumbling down on top of you; helicopters crashing down right in front of you; or massive oil rigs on fire. Add in the end-game moments, pulling a knife from your chest comes to mind; and I think you have a formula for a world that would be pretty rough to experience. And really you could say the same about Halo, Battlefield or even Medal of Honor.

Grand Theft Auto V

GRAND THEFT AUTO
I mentioned it a little yesterday that I didn’t pick Grand Theft Auto, instead going with Saints Row. My reasoning for going this way was that in GTA, the odds are you will be in constant danger of dieing. Whether it’s from the jobs you’re doing, the diversions you undertake, or just driving throughout the city, with no regard for rules at all. It really doesn’t matter which game you pick either – each one has the same basic problem. The freedom that the games provide all result in all kinds of dangerous situations. Add in the different gangs and mobs and other nefarious folk that want you dead and you have a recipe for a very dangerous time.

Dead Space Cover

DEAD SPACE
I think that this is one of those games that speaks for itself. If you’ve played Dead Space I think it’s pretty evident why it would be a horrifying experience. For those that haven’t played the game, the short version is that it’s basically Resident Evil in space. Now, there’s a lot more going on than that – but the basics are there. Evil group bent on controlling the primary enemy type for their own end? Check. Unbelievably tense environments that hid enemies around every corner? Check. Massive boss enemies that put the normal baddies to shame? Check. Add in the somewhat more visceral nature of the Necromorphs and I don’t think it’s too far of a leap to say Dead Space would be horrible to be in. Great games, terrible life.

BioShock Cover

BIOSHOCK AND POKEMON
This is where I make my picks that aren’t actually bad picks. In fact, both series could actually be kinda fun to be in. Exploring Rapture would be both unnerving, but also really pretty cool. Living in a world with Pokemon would also have some super awesome possibilities, especially since with our rules saying you’re the main character. But those same Pokemon could very well create all kinds of havoc. If we’re looking exclusively at the plots of the games, I could maybe put them in the good list. But since this is all about experiencing the worlds beyond the framework of the games, I can very easily see them both being dangerous.

Now, just because I don’t think these particular games would be bad to actually be a part of, doesn’t mean I think they’re bad games. In fact I really love each game on this list. I’ve said BioShock is one of the best games ever, let alone the last ten years. And putting them on this list doesn’t make them any less immersive either. Again, BioShock has one of the most engaging settings ever – Rapture truly feels alive, which is a hell of an accomplishment for an FPS. This whole question was more about physically entering the worlds, and being a part of them – this particular list is more about the worlds that just might be more trouble than they’re worth. I’m not by any means saying I’m right or wrong with either set of games – far from it. I just think it’s a fun little thing to think about, especially with so many great games out there these days.

Let’s Talk About Length

The Order: 1886There’s been a lot of talk this week about the length of The Order: 1886. The early reports are saying that the game is only five hours long. Now, if it really is that long, and half of that is cutscenes (which I’ve also seen) that’s an issue, mainly from a value perspective. Spending $60 on a game that’s only a few hours long, and doesn’t really seem to have a ton of replayability to it, well that’s a ripoff. Price that lower, and I don’t see a problem with a game that short. But it has gotten me thinking this week about game length. It’s always a variable that’s tossed around in reviews, but I honestly don’t see a huge reason to. Short games can be great, and long games can drag on – I’ve seen some writers recently talking about Dying Light being one of those games with just so much in it, that the story gets a little lost (although I think the lack of fast travel is what’s padding the length myself).

Dragon Age: Inquisition

There is something to length for sure – but it’s not a number set in stone. Shooters don’t all need to be 15 hours long, while RPGs don’t all need to be 60+. Instead, length should depend on the strength of the actual game – if the writing and action are strong, I’m much more likely to stay with a game for a longer time. It’s a big part of why I love the BioWare games so much. They’re loaded with content – both actual gameplay, and lore-building codex entries – that reward playing thoroughly, but don’t actually feel super long. For example, I recently started playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, even though I still am also working through the first game. I’m about 25 hours into the game already, and still haven’t picked which side, Mages or Templars, I’m going to try to gain the support of. I’ve done technically three or four main Inquisitor’s Path quests, while doing tons of the sidequest stuff. I’ve hit level 11 already, and barely scratched the surface of it. And I love that. Mass Effect was very similar, I went as slowly as I could so I could really get everything. I think that Bethesda’s RPGs are also really similar – I’ve talked a bit about my experiences with Oblivion already before.

Advanced Warfare Cover

On the other side, FPS games have trended the opposite direction in the last ten years or so. The campaign has definitely taken on a bit of a secondary role to the competitive multiplayer side. Now we get a nice 12-15 hour, on the long side, action movie ride that doesn’t really let up. It’s a really easy trope to complain about the story in Shooters these days, but I do think there’s something to it. They are all very similar – which is why new approaches like Destiny and Titanfall are great; while new settings like Battlefield: Hardline and Advanced Warfare help out too. In my experience, Shooters are just trying to make sure you get through the story – there’s plenty of hand-holding, and not a lot of room for deviation – and then they get you prepped for the multiplayer and off you go. The problem really lies with games that are built around the story – games like The Order. If there’s nothing beyond that, and your game is that short, that’s a major problem. Shooters that focus on story do still have a role-model too: the BioShock games. There’s not really anything beyond the story content, and they are closer to the 20 hour mark, but there’s plenty of both lore-building material in there, as well as action to keep you entertained the whole time. Now I know that BioShock isn’t exactly a pure FPS, but it’s primarily a Shooter more than RPG.

There are always exceptions of course – for me those are the sandbox style action games. Grand Theft Auto, for all the great writing and action, just seems to lose my attention after a certain time. Even Saints Row, a series that I really love, had a wall that I would hit. Sometimes it’s the mechanics – that’s my issue with Halo: The Master Chief Collection still – that keeps me from wanting to play. I have a feeling that game length is going to be in the news and social media a lot the next few days, especially since The Order comes out tomorrow. Just try to keep in mind that a game’s worth and value is never really dependent on one sole factor.

Other Series That Deserve an Anthology like Halo

Fallout 3 CoverWhen I was thinking about the potential ideas for a Call of Duty collection done in the same style as the recent Master Chief Collection, one of the things that I was mulling over was what other series I would like to see get that same treatment. So with that in mind, I thought I would hit a couple of the major ones I would like to see.

FALLOUT
This one is a little tricky, just because of the license issues within the franchise, but I think there’s got to be some way to make it happen. I would love to see something that puts the main entries in the series in one product. My thoughts were shaped a bit from the old Warcraft War Chest collection, but going a bit further. I think it would be awesome to put Fallout, Fallout 2, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas, plus their expansion content all in one package. It would also be totally possible to update the older two games graphics engine to run smoother. It would open up the older games to totally new audience as well, fans that came into the franchise with Fallout 3, which I include myself in. I would really be interested in playing the older games – especially in one place with achievements for all the games. Plus all of the games are really awesome too.

BioShock Cover

BIOSHOCK
Another great single-player experience that I would love to see all in one spot – the three BioShock games. The first game was just recently re-released on the iPad of all consoles, and I think within the next year or so there will be enough demand to see the games put out on current-gen consoles. In particular it would be awesome to go through the two Rapture games – especially with upgrades to the visuals to run at 60FPS and1080p.

Rock Band Blitz

ROCK BAND
This one is a little different – the games aren’t really a coherent story across the games or anything. Instead, I want to see all of the setlists put onto one disc – and also on current-gen consoles. This would definitely not be a quick turn around, since they would need to get the songs all relicensed. But I think it would be lots of fun to be able to play through the whole catalog on one disc – and play some of the older songs with the full Rock Band 3 treatment.

Mass Effect

MASS EFFECT
This one is the one that has the best chance of actually happening. I’ve seen a few articles that say that a trilogy is in the works for the current-gen consoles. To what extent that’s true, I don’t know exactly; but I think there’s definitely an audience for it. The games wouldn’t really need too much in the way of updates either – get it to run smooth at the current-gen level, and I think you’d have a winner on your hands.

Why The Death of Manuals is Bad for Gaming

This is something that I’ve been keeping my eye on for a pretty long time now. Every time I get a new game, I always make a point to look and see if it even has a manual at all these days. More and more I’m seeing less manuals in games in general. The three Xbox One titles I have physical copies of, none have manuals at all. Now I understand why publishers are moving away from manuals – they cost extra money to print, green business practices are all the rage these days, and I think they just want to put everything necessary onto the actual game disc.

Good Manuals

But there’s more to this than just losing a place to stick the controller layout, credits and legal terms. One of my favorite parts of buying a game back in the day was reading through the manuals on my way home – getting familiarized with the story and setting and characters and game mechanics well before I ever put the game in. All of that is lost now, which has actually affected game design. I fully believe that as manuals have disappeared, game developers have been forced to put some of that information into the actual core game. Tutorial levels have gotten longer and more in depth – not to mention more direct with how they are presented. There’s a joke image floating around online of World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. with a text box explaining that the A Button makes Mario jump. A few years ago, that really was a joke image, but these days, text boxes like that are starting to become the norm – even in simple games like that.

Bad Manuals

This isn’t an anti-tutorial piece either, not by any means. I actually believe that a tutorial level can add to the value of a game, if it’s done correctly. I think that the first two Modern Warfare games do it well – it’s a simple tutorial, but it makes sense within the game world. Same thing for Titanfall – it introduces some of the new mechanics, but in a way that makes sense within the universe. The first BioShock does it in a similar manner – there’s not really a tutorial level, but as new gameplay mechanics are introduced, Atlas helps you with them – using the key phrase “Would Ya Kindly” which ties into the story and game world. I would much rather play through a tutorial like any of them, than a game where simple mechanics are explained through pop-up boxes that stop gameplay. Essentially, I want the game developers to teach me how the game works in a way that fits within the confines of the universe they’ve spent so much time creating.

I don’t think we’ll ever see full game manuals like we used to, unless green printing drops in price tremendously and there’s a strong market demand; but I really think that there still is a place for them in gaming. I also truly believe that by removing them, publishers have affected the way that developers create games – and not always in good ways. This is one of those gaming trends that is still evolving, we just have to wait and see where we go with it.

One Last Look at the Xbox 360

This is the Xbox 360’s last week of being the main focus for Microsoft, so I thought it would be appropriate to take one last look at some of my favorite DLC and Arcade titles on it before I get my Xbox One this Friday. If you’re curious about full titles, I did a quick retrospective last post on Friday that I highly recommend checking out.

When I say DLC, I think we can really take DLC and divide it into a few different categories. Firstly, we have story content, second multiplayer content (usually map packs) and finally extra content. The extra content I would consider Avatar items, Dashboard themes, stuff like that. It’s DLC for sure, but I don’t really consider it necessary at all, and I wouldn’t really bother spending money on it at this point in the console’s lifespan. The other two categories though, absolutely are worth it. Let’s start with story-based content.

Mass Effect

As far as story content goes, some games are just tailor-made for extending the experience. For my money, the Mass Effect games have all had incredible extra content for each title, with The Lair of the Shadow Broker and The Citadel really being the two standouts. Both involved bringing back party characters that weren’t available in their main games respectively, but did feature in the games as secondary characters. The fanservice is always nice, but the story content added in is well worth the extra time and money. It’s similar to another great story-based DLC option that just came out – BioShock: Infinite’s Burial at Sea.

BioShock: Burial at Sea
The fanservice of setting the first major expansion (I wouldn’t really consider Clash in the Clouds a major add-on) in Rapture, a setting that I think ranks up there among the best ever, would be enough for my purchase; but the actual story content, at least through the first part, has been phenomenal. Definitely would recommend playing the main game first – otherwise the story might not exactly make sense; but Rapture really does still look awesome, and it’s great to see it before the fall that led to the first game. Shifting a bit from pure story driven games, I would also recommend the content that Bethesda has put out for Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas – with the notable exception of the Horse Armor for Oblivion. Most of the content for Oblivion is ancillary, all but the Shivering Isles are just new player housing, with some extra items and lore. Shivering Isles however, is a whole different ball game – adding in an entire separate plane of Oblivion to explore with a new story line to play through. Back when Oblivion was still the cutting edge, Shivering Isles set an example of what DLC could be on consoles. Bethesda got away from the small, player housing content for the next three games though, adding in bigger plug-ins with lots of items, lore and cool settings to explore. Seriously, if you haven’t expanded the already huge games, you’re really missing out. Since launch titles tend to be hit-and-miss, you wouldn’t go amiss with running through the Bethesda titles now. I would definitely include Dishonored in that list too, but I actually haven’t gone through the DLC for it yet, but I do have plans to.

Now let’s take a quick look at some multiplayer content, which really these days means map packs. At this point, any major multiplayer game will release a few map packs to extend the lifespan, so really you should pick them up for your preferred game. I’ve probably enjoyed the Halo: Reach, Halo 4, Modern Warfare 2, 3 and Battlefield 3 content the most. In some cases, I think pricing affected my purchase – especially with the Black Ops packs. I’m not the biggest fan of the Zombies mode, so $15 for four multiplayer maps and Zombie map I won’t ever play wasn’t really worth it for me. Really with these, it boils down to how much you play online, and how long you think you’ll be playing the game; as well as the quality of the maps.

Xbox Live Arcade

Now let’s shift gears entirely to talk Arcade games – while they aren’t DLC, they are digital titles, so I think it’s totally fitting to talk them today too. I’ve long said that if there’s one thing Microsoft can look back at the 360’s life and know they did real well, it was their handling of the Xbox Live Arcade. Offering lower priced, shorter titles for immediate download was a really smart idea. And it’s really expanded too, I don’t think a game like Minecraft was in their minds when the Arcade debuted. Speaking of that, let’s start right there – Minecraft, if you’re one of the five people that don’t own it yet, should absolutely be on your hard drive. It’s LEGO’s for adults as I like to describe it. I would also definitely recommend Castle Crashers from a few years ago as a good four player hack and slash game, as well as Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit for a great “Metroidvania” style game with a great sense of humor.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

The other strength of the arcade is revisiting classic titles – I have a number of older games that I loved back in the day, like Gunstar Heroes, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 3, and Knuckles, as well as the remade HD games Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, and Ducktales. Both were classic games now being re-released to a new generation of fans, and absolutely worth picking up.

Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse

With the Xbox One coming out Friday, I’m excited to see how Microsoft is planning on expanding the Arcade and DLC front, but for the next few days at least, I think the 360’s Arcade deserves one last look.