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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News and Notes Catch Up

Fallout 4 Box ArtWe’re still in a little bit of a lull in terms of big game launches – we’re a couple weeks away from The Division still, but there have been a couple headlines that popped up over the last couple days that have piqued my interest. Like I did with the FPS news last week, today I’ll talk a little about what I’ve seen and my interpretation of it.

We’ll start with the news today from Bethesda about the first three DLC packs for Fallout 4. Monthly DLC packs are headed to the Commonwealth starting in March, ending in May. The timing makes sense – the game came out in November, so most of the hardcore players have pretty much beaten everything that the base game has to offer, and really it’s just standard timing for big game DLC launches. The interesting part is that they come with a price raise. The season pass, until the 29th of February, costs $30. On March 1 though, the price will jump up to $50 to account for the new expanded DLC plans. So if, like me you’ve been waiting for the actual plans to pick up the season pass, now is definitely the time. I don’t think we know if that $30 will include everything moving forward, or just these first three DLC packs. What I do know is that these first three packs are pretty cool sounding. First up, Automaton will add the ability to build and create your own robot minions, and has some story content to go with it. In April, we get the Wasteland Workshop – bringing with it arena battles and new workshop items. The big one comes in May though – Far Harbor. Bethesda is calling it the biggest DLC they’ve built for Fallout, and it’s going to be set up in Maine. Now that we know that there’s more DLC coming after May, bringing the total value up to around $60, Fallout 4 will be staying on my Xbox all year long.

Mass Effect

Next up we learned today that a writer from BioWare, Chris Schlerf, has joined Bungie to work on Destiny moving forward. That’s in and of itself a pretty big news story, but bigger because Schlerf was the lead writer for the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda and had been on the team all the way back to 2014. In all likelihood, ME:A won’t be impacted too much by this – I would think by now that the story is all fleshed out and they’re in full swing to, hopefully, get the game out this year. Adding a writer from a studio that has a track record of consistently strong story content in their games to Destiny is a really intriguing move though. Destiny has been continually made fun of for it’s certainly threadbare story. Yes, The Taken King improved that side of things a whole bunch, but I’m really interested to see what bringing in someone from a studio that has always put a lot of emphasis on story to a universe that, I think, has a really strong potential is exciting. With Destiny 2 not coming until next year, that give Schlerf and the writing team plenty of time to come up with a real beast of a story.

I’m expecting this week’s Update to have a little bit of everything in it. They’re bound to wrap up Crimson Days, but now that we have the road map, I would love if they started to talk a little more about this spring content we’re getting. Tomorrow I think I’ll put down a couple of ideas that I really hope that Bungie at least has considered for the spring update.

Weekly News Recap – Week of October 12, 2015

The busy season has been running pretty hard so far – with Destiny, Battlefront Beta, Rainbow Six Beta all getting some serious playtime. That said, we’re about to really hit the crazy time with five major releases in the next month coming out, along with others too. So news has been a bit on the backburner for me, as I would rather focus on writing about the games I’m playing. That said, I did see a couple headlines recently that I think are worth talking about.

Mass Effect

EA GAMES – NO HD REMAKES SOON
I saw this one earlier today, and I’m torn on it. EA has doubled down on their comments from E3 about HD remakes. Don’t be expecting to see an HD Mass Effect collection anytime soon, or any other last-gen EA classics. Now that we’re deeper into the current-gen of consoles, I’m starting to move away from wanting HD remakes to fill out my library. So in that regard I’m glad to see EA focusing on making new games. That said though, there are a couple games that I would really have liked to see get the sprucing up – Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Dead Space all jump to mind. We’ll have to see if they relent in the future, but for now, don’t expect anything like that.

Halo 5 Guardians

HALO 5 ROLLS OUT FOR STREAMERS AND PRESS
This week we started to see just how Microsoft plans on launching Halo 5: Guardians. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it looks a lot like a soft launch style event – Twitch streamers got the game, along with members of the press and community members. I also saw today that the launch event will be held online, as they see more and more players moving to digital releases. Again, I’m kinda torn here – in general, if there’s a game that I really like and want to support totally, I buy it physically. I know that makes no sense, but it’s just how I’ve kinda grown with gaming. We’ll see how it works out on the 27th.

Fallout 4 Box Art

FALLOUT 4 CONTINUES TO RAMP THE HYPE TO MAX LEVELS
Over the last month or so, Bethesda has been releasing a whole bunch of videos for Fallout 4. Each one has detailed just what each of the seven S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats actually entail in game, done in the style of old PSA safety videos. It fits so perfectly with the style of the game, and they act as perfect ways for new players to get some info on the game; and at the same time, series veterans have some great videos to dig through for details. This week they also put out the Live-Action trailer – not quite the same level trailer as say the Destiny Live-Action ones, but still really cool to see. It’s got both the humor of Fallout, while still showing off some action. Plus it’s got Dion’s “The Wanderer” as the soundtrack, so I’m all in on that. November 11 can’t get here quick enough.

Early Thoughts on Xbox One Backward Compatibility

Xbox 360 Logo

I recently got into the Xbox Preview Program, and as such have been able to look into the new backwards compatibility feature on the Xbox One. Now, it’s far from complete, there’s still plenty of details that Microsoft is working out – that’s what the whole point of the Preview Program is about. That said, the list of games that are currently available does have a couple that I have on there, so I’ve been able to play around a little bit.

Battleblock Theater

To start with, I’ve put my time in with one of the downloadable games – Battleblock Theater. The game itself is an interesting game – puzzle based platformers are always fun, and this one is no different. If anything, because it’s from The Behemoth, it’s got that much more character to it. But that’s not the important part here. What is is how well the emulation works. And in my experience it’s been pretty close to flawless. It took a while to load up the 360 environment – at least the first time it did – but other than that, it’s been really smooth so far. No framerate issues, no sound issues, and the controller hasn’t had any sort of input delay – at least that I’ve noticed. If this stays true moving forward – and the list of digital/arcade titles grows more expansive, this could really be a big step towards moving 100% on to my Xbox One.

Now, I say that I’ve used the downloadable game option so far. That’s because I only have one on-disc game that currently available on the Backwards Compatibility list – Mass Effect. Now, I love that game, and I love that series. But playing that is a major time commitment – and I already have a number of games going right now. Between Destiny, Fallout: New VegasBattlefield: Hardline, finishing Dragon Age: Inquisition and really starting Witcher 3, my plate is pretty full – especially considering I want to get a chunk of these done before the fall season kicks up. Now, I expect the discs to work just as well as the digital games do – my only concern with them is whether or not an install is required. If it is, then storage is an even bigger issue than it already was. Early adapters with the 500Gb Xbox One will all but be forced to get some form of external storage moving forward. It’s either that, or some major curating of installed games is needed. But that’s a problem for another day – and not one that’s unique to the Xbox.

The Root of the Question – Immersion

Dragon Age OriginsThe last two days I’ve posed a hypothetical question – if you had the power, which game worlds would be the best/worst ones to hop into and live in; as in actually be a part of. I came up with what I think is a pretty solid start to each list, although a question like this is always going to have lots of wiggle room. I’ll admit I was trying to keep most of my picks somewhat relevant to the current slate of games out there. There’s plenty of classic games that could fit into either category.

That said though, at the core of this whole discussion is one simple factor. How immersive is that game’s world? I think, regardless of which list you put the game on, if it’s in contention for either, that’s ultimately a good thing for the game. That means that the developers have crafted a world that draws you in in some way. That could be through dialogue and writing, it could be with the action of the game, or it could just be the aesthetics of the world. Regardless of whether actually living in that world would be nice and easy, or incredibly dangerous; the fact that the thought has even entered your brain is a win.

Thief

I say that like it’s a given with games these days. We seem to expect a rich, living environment for our games. As the industry has grown and matured, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to expect. Not every game needs to be a super serious, gritty, mature title to achieve that though. And even beyond that, creating a world that feels alive and immersive is incredibly difficult. A good example is last year’s reboot of Thief. The game tried to do too much, and as a result, the world felt stiff. It was really noticeable compared with Dishonored, which managed to pull of a much more alive feeling world, while still trying to do very similar things. Both are set in very dystopian worlds, neither would exactly be fun to live in – although our rules stated we would be the main character, which would alleviate a lot of that; both are also structured around stealth mechanics, with some super natural added in. And yet, Thief fell a little short, thanks to a convoluted story, and really no impact to the world around you. Dishonored made every decision impact the whole of the world, which made the different play styles matter more, and in turn helped breathe life into the game world.

BioWare Logo

Which is why studios like BioWare and Bethesda always deserve a ton of credit for their hard work. BioWare’s two major current IPs – Mass Effect and Dragon Age – couldn’t be more different in setting. And yet both have the very same focus – story and character – to make the worlds feel alive, and thus draw the player in much more. Add in some character customization, superb writing and acting and solid action, regardless of control style; and you have not only an incredible world to play in, but a game that’s super fun to play. Bethesda does it a little differently. Story is still important, but it’s more through the little details that their worlds come to life. Giving every NPC a schedule that the keep makes going to the towns feel just like that. Having a reputation/crime system provides consequence for your actions – good or bad. It makes it very easy to get lost in the Role Playing nature of their games, regardless of whether it’s Fallout or Elder Scrolls.

Bethesda Softworks Logo

I think it’s very easy to look at the current state of gaming and say that the big determining factor for progress has been graphics. In just about 30 years we’ve come incredibly far, really quite fast. I don’t see it being a huge stretch to say that in the same period of time in the future we might get to see games that are as close to life like as any CGi movie is. But that’s not really where the growth has been, in my eyes. It helps it, sure, but really the growth is best shown in the increase in games with impact. We’ve gone from an industry where the best selling and most loved games are literally two-dimensional; to now one that craves stories with weight, characters with life and action with impact. All mass forms of entertainment have gone through this growth – movies, comics, books, TV, even music. It’s part of truly becoming mainstream, and earning our spot as part of the mass pop culture. We still have a very long way to go, just look at the last 6 months of gaming culture to see why; but I truly believe that we’ll get there eventually. And when we do, it’s going to be thanks to these games, where immersion is the key.

A Question to Ponder: What Games Would be the Best to Jump Into?

Dragon Age: InquisitionI’ve had this thought bouncing around this week – if you wake up tomorrow, with the ability to hop into any game universe you want, which would be the best ones? The thought came out of playing a TON of Dragon Age: Inquisition lately. It, much like any BioWare game, has such a high level of immersion to it. It’s very easy to lose yourself into the world, thanks mainly to the superb writing. This isn’t the first time I’ve had similar thoughts either – I found myself thinking something along the same lines when I played Skyrim and Oblivion. So I thought I’d run with it this time. Before we start though, let’s set a couple ground rules. First, assume that when you hop into the world, it’s just the same as playing it – you are the main character, and by proxy, the action revolves around you. There’s more to the universe than just the story of the game though, so there’s plenty of blank space to work with. Second, we have to also assume that the game mechanics are still in place – you still have mana/stamina reserves to maintain, it’s just known inherently. That keeps you from breaking beyond the scope of the game. The whole point of this thought is to enter and enjoy the world – not alter the entire state of it. The last point to keep in mind is the big question of death – let’s just say the penalty for “game over” is kicking you back to the real world, and barring you from re-entering that game for some period of time. Now that the ground rules have been set, I came up with a few examples of what I think would be fun/exciting game worlds to hop into.

Dragon Age Origins

DRAGON AGE
Let’s just start with the game that got me thinking this question. Each game in the series presents a world that’s insanely full with life, even in the face of the incredible dangers. The games are limited in that only certain characters can be interacted with, of course, but that wouldn’t exist if you can just hop into the world. Secondary, background characters have even more life now. Add in that you are the main character, and that helps you shape the world with even more detail than you could just playing the game. The game is also limited with the dialogue choices you have – that disappears with you actually being the character. Combat is still a part of the experience, but thanks to the game mechanics, death isn’t a super threat – even should you fall, as soon as the combat is over, you pop right up. So I think Dragon Age would be a fun world to experience first-hand, you’ve got action, you have a world rich in history, and you have people that are around you to make it a living world.

Mass Effect

MASS EFFECT
On a similar note, the Mass Effect games would basically be the same sort of deal as Dragon Age. A universe that’s full of history and incredible places to visit. Characters that fill that universe with life. And action that will keep you busy, while again, not having a huge worry about death. The threat is perhaps a little different though – the Reapers are certainly an intense threat. Putting you actually into the shoes of Commander Sheppard would perhaps be a little stressful, but that’s where the down-time comes in. The game isn’t pure action, start to finish – there is a lot of down time on the Normandy, and with that comes all kinds of options for you to do. Take the Mako out for a spin to explore some planets, and I think it’d be a fun world to explore for sure.

Saints Row IV

SAINTS ROW
Switching gears a little bit in terms of genre, I present a potentially surprise choice. I think that the knee jerk game choice with this question would be Grand Theft Auto. The problem is that the game makes it really easy to be constantly in life-threatening danger. On the other hand, Saints Row is essentially the same style game, but taken beyond the limit of normal. Death is no concern because of the upgrades you can get – eventually you’ll be invincible. You can still drive any car you want, or cause whatever mayhem you feel like – hell it’s part of the game after all. And as the universe expands, eventually you have access to a bunch of different super powers to play with. Sure the story isn’t as deep as the previous choices, but sometimes you just want to blow shit up and not worry about all that pathos.

Rock Band 3 Cover

ROCK BAND
Another surprising choice I think, this one might be one that appeals to a more limited audience. Essentially it’s the same world as the real one after all, except you’re part of the greatest cover band in history. You can play literally any song presented to you, immediately. If we take the story into consideration, you go from bar band to biggest band ever, so you have no worries at all – and death isn’t an issue, so you’d be able to hang out in Rock Band world as long as you want.

Super Mario 64

MARIO
Finally, the one universe that probably provides the most fun factor – the Mario universe. Not only could you save a kingdom from threats of a major villain, but then the next day, everyone is out playing tennis. Or golf. Or go karting. Or baseball. Or soccer. Or having a board game party. It’s a universe that’s got all kinds of potential – threats are limited, fun is maximized. The characters have certainly grown in depth over the years too, so you won’t need to worry about being alone. It’d be a fun one to go through for sure. Add in the Super Smash Bros. factor and you’ve got even more potential for action.

Ultimately, this hypothetical question boils down to which game worlds are not only immersive, but also have a high potential for a fun existence. It’s a fun question to ponder on when you’ve got a few minutes to day dream. I like to think it adds a little bit more to the game experience as well.

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.