It's almost time for the Xbox 720, but before it arrives, we're taking a look back at some of the Xbox 360's greatest hits.
With the Xbox 720 launch almost upon us, the next console generation is about to begin in earnest. In all likelihood, games are about to get bigger, shinier, longer and more expensive - things are about to change.
But before they do, let's give a big hand for the Xbox 360. Launching in 2005, it pulled off the colossal achievement of not just competing with Sony's PlayStation, but outselling it, dominating the US market and to this day maintaining a lead in global unit shipments.
It was helped of course by the underwhelming launch of the PS3, but for the most part, the success of the 360 was down to its exclusive IPs which consistently pulled in the lucrative, game-loving core market.
Before we all move on and start talking up the 720, here are five of the best games exclusive to its predecessor.
Obviously we have to feature a Halo game, obviously. The quality might have dipped up and down over the years, and you might argue that, yes, the Halo franchise today represents pretty much everything that's chauvinistic, ignorant and wrong with computer games but it's still fun and beautiful and big and silly.
Apart from Combat Evolved for the original Xbox, Reach is the best Halo. It has the same, familiar, chunky gunplay as all the others but combined with a miserable "everybody dies" plotline. And we do mean everybody. One by one your squad is picked off by the Covenant, some by sniper fire, others by explosions. The final scene sees you staying behind the hold back waves of incoming enemies, only to get overwhelmed and battered to death with swords. It's a bit mawkish, a bit Spielberg, but compared to the other Halos that made it onto the 360, Reach stands out for being just that little bit tear-jerky.
Despite being fun, challenging and funny, Trials HD was instrumental in cementing the Live Arcade's place on the Xbox dashboard. Geometry Wars and Braid had been successful on the platform as well, but Trials was the first XBLA game it felt like everybody owned; just in the way you could guarantee your Xbox friends all had a copy of Gears of War, everyone had at least downloaded the Trials HD demo.
It's a puzzle game as much as a racing game. You have to navigate a motocross bike over ramps, obstacles and loop-the-loops without crashing all falling off, the trick being to apply just the right mix of accelerator and brake to keep the bike from flipping over.
On a console defined by muscular, AAA shooters, Trials HD proved that there was room for different things on the 360. Limbo, Fez and Deadlight followed after it.
Gears of War
The original and still the best, Gears of War popularised a brand of third-person cover shooting that would become emblematic of the whole seventh console generation. It was clunky, masculine and brash - it appealed directly to the 360 market.
Playing as muscular men with names like Cole and Dom, you shoot equally muscular aliens using a gun with a chainsaw on it. Blood and limbs fly everywhere, guitar music revs up every time you win a gunfight. Like Halo, it's easy to scapegoat Gears nowadays as representative of all the bad things games are, but in 2006, it was incredible. It was great-looking, violent and intense; it had a brilliant co-op mode. In terms of getting young men to hang out together and play its game console, Microsoft couldn't have done better than Gears of War.
A personal favourite. Katamari needs to be included for the same reason as Trials HD: It's prudent to remember that the 360 wasn't all Halos, Gears of Wars and an app that could deliver you pizza. Occasionally, something dead smart made its way onto the console. Alan Wake usually gets the kudos when it comes to "innovative" boxed 360 games but Katamari, as you'll know if you've played it, is well wackier.
You have a ball and you need to make it bigger, so what you do, naturally, is roll it around villages, towns and cities picking up anything that will stick to it, which is everything. When it's small, you roll it over insects, pencil erasers and coins. As it gets bigger, you can roll up swans, fire hydrants and children. Eventually you're rolling up buildings, planets, the Sun, all scored by a madcap J-pop soundtrack. Beautiful Katamari is one of those wonderful games that does something only a videogame could do. It's testament to the at least somewhat diverse softography of the Xbox 360.
Having only launched in October last year, Forza Horizon is a bit too young to be included in the altogether history of the Xbox 360. Unlike Halo, Gears, Trials and Katamari, it's not part of some overall, console defining canon. Rather, it's stylish, cool, and brilliant - it's one of the best games of 2012 and perhaps the last exclusive hurrah before the 720 takes point.
Horizon is a sandbox racing game-cum-music festival that couldn't be more beautiful if it had Ryan Gosling's face and Ryan Gosling's hair and Ryan Gosling's eyes. You're competing in a Gumball 3000 style racing tournament held in Colorado Springs. While thrashing around in some of the most beautiful cars in the world, you're accompanied by Horizon Radio, with tracks handpicked by Bestival organiser Rob De Bank. For the sake of word count, we can't go into just how brilliant this is (our review has more). Let's just say it's exciting, smart and cool, the perfect way to send off the 360.
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