Top Picks for Xbox 360
Microsoft's Xbox 360 has seen a lot of great games surge onto store shelves in the last few months, with more than a couple incredible sequels staking their claim as the best of the console's crop. So far, it's looking like a banner year for Batman: Arkham City and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, although perennial power houses like Mass Effect 2, Dark Souls, and Red Dead Redemption still hold up strong today. With the year coming to close, the GamePro staff voted on the best games for the console right now, and there's been a lot of movers and shakers.
Before you start shopping for the holidays, check out our "Top 10" Xbox 360 games and why they're the best ones you can get on the console today.
Gears of War 3
After a short five years, the Gears franchise finally comes to a conclusion with Gears of War 3, and the final title in the Marcus Fenix saga is just as bloody, as explosive, and as unapologetically violent as ever.
Gears of War 3 brings a lot of new weapons to the table in its fight to stay on top of the FPS market. One big gun in its arsenal is undoubtedly the four-player co-op, a series' first, along with a couple of completely revamped multiplayer modes. Horde Mode returns with "Horde 2.0," where players can now set up strategic command centers, build defenses, and get bonuses for holding ground against waves of Locust enemies. Flipping the mode on its head is "Beast Mode," where players attack COG Soldiers as the invading Locust, upgrading to more lethal enemy types over time.
New weapons, new playable characters (including female COGs), and new enemy types round out the game, and the main campaign reaps the benefits of all the improvements. Not only can you level up through frequent kills and feats of skill, but you can also swap money, weapons, and ammo in-game. Talk about teamwork.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Even though Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes to the franchise a staggering seven years after the underwhelming Deus Ex: Invisible War, Eidos Montreal has nonetheless created a prequel that masterfully exercises open-world gameplay with solid stealth and shooter combat mechanics.
Stepping into the role of Adam Jensen, Deus Ex weaves a deep and thought-provoking mystery that's wrapped around the morality of "human augmentation." Jensen, a private security specialist for Sarif Industries and former police officer, is turned into a cyborg himself when his company is attacked by an unknown group. Throughout the game, the overarching mission involves finding the source of the attack, along with witnessing the culture clash between "augmented" humans and "natural" humans.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a very competent stealth shooter, but the game performs equally as an action RPG. Upgrading Adam Jensen's bio-mechanical abilities via skill trees is as key to the gameplay as Deus Ex's intricate dialogue trees, and ultimately, level missions are an open book. Whether you want to shoot your way into an objective, sneak in via hacking, or try to con your way to your goal through talking, each level gives you the option to plan your attack.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Featuring the return of Soap MacTavish and bearded badass Captain John Price, Modern Warfare 3 represents Activision's follow-up to the saga of World War III. Injecting even more cringe-worthy realism into the frantic combat, the various battlegrounds cover plenty of real-life locations like Manhattan and Prague, including explosive cinematics that can sometimes be frighteningly realistic. Of course, the short single-player mission should just about get your feet wet, while the multiplayer could drown you.
Modern Warfare 3 completely revamps the "Killstreak" reward system and re-balances several elements from Modern Warfare 2, including a brilliant new mode that requires you to collect a fallen enemy's dogtags. For the hardcore COD player, this franchise release also introduces the Call of Duty: Elite service, which features tons of exclusive content: free DLC maps (with a yearly subscription), sponsored tournaments, mobile apps for changing your load-out, a TV channel, and frequent content. It's a dramatic and expansive step-up from previous multiplayer offerings in Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2.
As the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls takes the dark dungeon crawling action of the original and removes the barriers. Its massive world can take up to 80 hours to explore, with tons of secrets crammed in many dark corners. It's an adventure for hardcore RPG fans only, as the insanely punishing campaign will send you packing once than a few times.
But what really makes Dark Souls stand out is its offline and online integration. Blood stains and messages that defined Demon's Souls are still there; but Dark Souls takes it to a new level by allowing you to align with factions that might ask you to help other players out, or kill them outright. With features like these, Dark Souls picks up where Demon's Souls left off as arguably the most innovative game of this generation.
Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is one of the best role-playing games you'll find on any console today, and BioWare's impeccable storytelling is a core ingredient that ties together the impressive graphics, action-oriented gameplay, and diverse mission structure. Once again taking the role of Commander Shepard, you tackle the threat of the Reapers and lead a suicide mission to destroy the "Collectors," an alien group that's slowly eliminating all the human colonies in the galaxy. As the series' trademark, your Shepard can be a power-hungry renegade or a benevolent peacekeeper, but there's still a consequence for every action you take -- even the absolute smallest decisions can come back to hurt or help you.
After a particularly ruthless ambush on the Normandy leaves the main crew scattered and Commander Shepard incapacitated, the first Human Spectre is rebuilt and re-equipped with the help of the mysterious Illusive Man, the leader of an aggressive pro-humanity faction. However, the greater threat is the Reapers and the Collectors, two alien groups trying to eradicate the human race. As Shepard, you have to recruit a team of the most fearsome and talented individuals in the galaxy -- and more importantly, earn their respect, loyalty, or trust.
Although the story culminates with Mass Effect 3, this game warrants several replays, with tons of branching dialogue and changing story points. Finishing the game with your crew intact is tough. And if you're careful, your carefully created Shepard might not even live to see the beginning of the next game.
Saints Row: The Third
Comparing Saints Row to Grand Theft Auto has officially stopped being revelant. Now that THQ has seen fit to amp up the craziness scale once again with Saints Row: The Third, it's safe to say that other sandbox games are the ones that need to do the catching up now. In fact, the biggest problem with rejoining the Saints' crew might be that you have too muchfreedom.
Starting from the amazingly detailed character creation system and ending with dozen of melee shots to the crotch, Saints Row: The Third goes into the brand-new city of Steelport, as Johnny Gat, Shaundi, and the Boss go to war with the Syndicate, a colorful cadre of gangsters who make the Legion of Doom look like the Care Bears. As you battle through the city streets, the list of over-the-top feats just gets longer and longer -- mid-air gunfights while jumping out a plane, fighter jet vs. tank battles, and a virtual reality throwdown borrowed lovingly from The Matrix and Tron aren't even the weirdest things that you'll see during the all-out gang war.
Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar San Diego's Red Dead Redemption has everything that you'd expect from a traditional Western: a gritty hero, nefarious bandits, and tales of honor and betrayal. But this title brings even more to the table with Rockstar's trademark brand of open-world gameplay. Whether you're roping cattle, tracking down bounties, stopping a robbery, or just playing a round of cards, Red Dead Redemption's open wilderness lies at your fingertips, just waiting for you to saddle up and get your hands dirty.
As outlaw-turned-drifter John Marston, you're tasked by the United States Government with tracking down your old gang and putting an end to them. In the rustic 1914 settings of New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso and West Elizabeth -- fictional territory that lies on the border of the U.S.A. and Mexico -- there's a giant open frontier for gamers to explore, with content that stretches as far as the horizon itself. Red Dead Redemption is peppered with gunfights, stagecoach races, quick draw shootouts, and dozens of other activities that fill this expansive sandbox. Depending on how you play the game, other Westerners will either run at the sight of you or worship the ground you walk on, making everything you do in Red Dead Redemption both lasting and important. John Marston's actions are reflected in the game masterfully, and you can make your own reputation as you see fit.
Along with the main story, Red Dead Redemption also contains deep multiplayer modes that encourage you to form a fearsome posse, completely with a variety of match types. If you simply want to mosey along, you can even catch a few rounds of poker, or simply go hunting in groups. And, of course, there's always extra DLC like the Undead Nightmare mission pack, which puts a bit of horror into the Wild West.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Playing Skyrim quickly becomes a bit of a problem. It's an expansive world that gives you the freedom to do almost anything from the moment you create the look of your character. Bethesda's sequel to Oblivion is massive, and with the options at your fingertips, you can spend hundreds of hours exploring the edges of the in-game world.
In Skyrim, much of the game revolves around traversing the amazingly detailed landscape, hunting dragons and absorbing their magical powers. Eventually, you'll have to face the dragon god Alduin in order to save the world, but several quests and smaller adventures pave the road between you and the end of the game. Throughout the course of Skyrim, you can learn dozens of spells and collects piles of weapons, all while collecting literally every single thing you can pick up--books, pots, armor, wildlife pelts, and even other people's clothes.
Portal wasn't supposed to be as big as it got. It was a pack-in game, something to help fill in space on Half-Life 2: The Orange Box. Instead, the simple first-person shooter puzzle took a life of its own, with GLaDOS, the Companion Cube, and Chell becoming one of the year's most talked about cast of characters.
As a result, Portal 2 has a lot to live up to--and so far, it's doing so without breaking a sweat. Picking up where the first game ended, Chell finds herself once again trapped in the bowels of a now-run down Aperture Science Laboratory, with nothing more than her trusty Portal Gun and Long Fall Boots. GLaDOS is back too, and none too pleased about the fact that she was almost killed in the last game. Luckily, you have some help in getting around this time, and the murderous GLaDOS isn't the only A.I. in town. With new sidekick Wheatley (a dim-witted personality core) in tow, it's a race to survive GLaDOS and her new deadly science experiments.
While the single-player story has its fair share of twists and turns, Portal 2 also ups the ante with a co-op campaign. Working together to solve these rooms is a nice bonus, although quite challenging. Puzzles are harder, the level design is crazier, but GLaDOS thankfully retains her trademark dry wit and blatant disregard for her subjects' lives.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City might be the best video game of the year, and it's certainly the best superhero game of all-time. Taking the Dark Knight out of the insane asylum and letting him loose on the streets, Batman: Arkham City's open world invites gamers to really explore every nook and cranny of the criminal-infested alleys. Or, you can deviate from crime fighting altogether and put your brain to task hunt down the elusive Riddler trophies.
Everything that Batman: Arkham Aslyum was, Arkham City is more. It's more exploration, thanks to new bat-gadgets and an incredibly satisfying gliding system that lets you hone in on targets. It's more combat, and not just with Batman, but Catwoman, Robin, and Nightwing, thanks to both in-game content and a generous amount of DLC. And it's more of the game great gameplay that we enjoyed from the previous title, stretched out into more memorable boss battles, refined combat, and several exhilarating 30-to-1 brawls. No other game nails the feeling of being the Caped Crusader with such near perfection. Simply put, it's the best Batman game in history.
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, BioShock 2, Borderlands, Bulletstorm, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Crysis 2, Dance Central, Dead Island, Dead Space 2, DiRT 3, Fable 3, Fallout: New Vegas, FIFA Soccer 12, Forza Motorsport 4, Grand Theft Auto IV, Half Life 2: The Orange Box, Halo: Reach, L.A. Noire, Mortal Kombat, Rage, Rock Band 3, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3