Thursday, April 5, 2018

Top 5 Backwards Compatible Xbox 360 Games

The real title of this article is "The Top 5 Best Backwards Compatible Xbox 360 Games You Should Play If You Never Have" but that seemed a little long-winded. It's actually pretty rare for me to take advantage of the Xbox One's backwards compatibility feature, as I always find myself buying more current games and don't have much desire to return to older ones. But, to me, these are the five games that are more than worthy to get a playthrough on your more current and fancy console.

There are some rules for this list, however. First, if a backwards compatible game has received a remaster or port to the current home consoles, it's out. So that means you won't see games like Bioshock, Borderlands 2, and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. All are great games, but they have more current versions available. Secondly, the game had to have been originally released on the Xbox 360/PS3/Wii generation of consoles, so early XBLA classics like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Contra are also eliminated since they appeared on systems prior to that generation.

As always, let's start with a few games that were in contention but just barely missed the final list.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

There are better fast-paced action games than this one, the parrying mechanic isn't always easy to pull off, and the controls for any weapon other than the sword are wonky, but the frenetic action and trademark Metal Gear insanity make this compact game (about 4 hours) a blast to play. Also, nanomachines, son!

Portal 2

I loved Portal. Like everyone else, I'm sick of "the cake is a lie" jokes. Also like everyone else, I was curious how they were going to take Portal and turn it into a full-fledged, $60 release. The mind-bending puzzles combined with amazing writing, a separate co-op campaign, and secrets that are very fun to find make for one of the best puzzle games of all-time.

Dead Space series

Dead Space picked up the ball that Resident Evil had dropped in the latter half of the generation (before Dead Space dropped it and Resident Evil picked it back up again). Dead Space 3 suffered from EA's intervention of trying to shoehorn in microtransactions (though I still enjoyed it), but the first two entries are survival horror royalty. The first game took everyone by surprise, delivering claustrophobic corridors, scarce ammo pickups, and a twist to the combat that made the genuinely scary enemies even more of a threat.

Dead Space 2 leaned more toward action, but still had plenty of scares, and is my personal favorite of the series. I liked how the story had a heavier emphasis on the Unitology cult, and the game starts with one of the best opening sequences ever. As of this writing, Dead Space 2 is currently a free via Xbox Live Games With Gold, so go get it!

SPOILER ALERT: One thing that I wish they would have done is went with what appeared to be the ending, with Isaac Clarke having completed his mission, but realizing that there's no hope of survival. The moment where he sits there with his head in his hands was a really powerful one, but I feel they ruined it with the last minute rescue.

Now, on to the top 5.

5. Split/Second

Unless it features a gorilla throwing a turtle shell at a ghost, I'm not usually into racing games. I took a chance on Split/Second because I had a genuine interest and managed to pick it up for only $20 the week of release thanks to an Amazon sale combined with a coupon. Split/Second is a different type of racing combat. Rather than weapon pick ups, you fill a meter through various means, such as drifting, drafting, or narrowly missing debris, and use the meter to trigger events in the world to attempt to crash your opponents. There are different levels of things to trigger, and some tracks even feature course-altering actions that will change the course layout on the next lap.

The story is set up like a reality show and there are several types of events outside of normal races. One event sees you dodging missiles from an overhead helicopter while another continually eliminates the car in last place until there's only one car left standing. The game's ending set up a sequel, but unfortunately the developer, Black Rock Studios, was shut down before that could ever happen, which is a shame, because I would gladly tune in for a second season of Split/Second.

This one just recently became backwards compatible and is very affordable, so check it out if you want a different spin on the racing combat genre.

4. Ghostbusters

Being in my 30s now, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite films. I grew up with the these movies, and it was practically an inevitability that Ghostbusters 2 was playing on a basic cable channel at all times in the 90s. I was also huge into The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series, and I wanted nothing more than a third Ghostbusters movie. We never got it, but this game is the canonical continuation of the series, and even Dan Aykroyd stated "This is essentially the third movie."

The game has you playing as an unnamed rookie working with the Ghostbusters, featuring the voices of all of the original actors, and has so many throwbacks to the original movies that it'll bring a smile to the face of anyone who is a fan of the property. The fact that you can crack jokes with Vigo the Carpathian in your downtime is just one example of the attention to detail that was lavished on this game. It's obvious that the developers were big Ghostbusters fans.

As far as the game goes, it plays and controls like Gears of War, and it does a great job of mixing comedy and horror. There are some parts in the game where you'll need to use a PKE meter, and it feels much like a survival horror game a la Dead Space. This game has managed to hold its value pretty well, so I say pick it up if you find it for under $30.

3. Deadly Premonition

If you've ever played Deadly Premonition, you have one of two minds about it. It's either a shoddy, bargain bin, wannabe ripoff of Resident Evil 4, or it's one of the most bizarre yet incredibly enjoyable games you've ever played. I'm the latter.

It was Jim Sterling's infamous 10/10 review on Destructoid that made me take notice, and when I realized that it was released at only $20, I figured I didn't have much to lose and picked it up. The first chapter is very much an RE4 knockoff, but the rest of the game is Twin Peaks. Literally. It takes quite liberally from David Lynch's bizarre supernatural comedy-drama television series: an FBI agent that gives exposition to an absent second party, a small town traumatized by the death of a young girl, a cast of weird but strangely lovable characters, and a protagonist that really likes coffee. Not surprisingly, the game was directed by Hidetaka Suehiro, better known by his alias SWERY, who also has a penchant for the bizarre and outlandish.

What makes Deadly Premonition so interesting is that it's not just a third-person shooter, it's a weird hybrid of shooter and life simulator. Your character needs to eat, he needs to sleep, he needs to shave (unless you want a wicked beard, and who doesn't?), if he doesn't shower flies will begin to swarm around him, when you're driving you need to stop and get gas. It sounds tedious but somehow it works. Even if you don't want to play it, I really do suggest watching someone else play it. Everyone needs to experience this game.

2. Borderlands

I talk about the Borderlands franchise a lot, and that's because there are a lot of good things to say about it. The game was such a pleasant surprise back in 2009, as the Game Informer cover story did nothing for me. It looked like any other generic shooter that was coming out at the time. Fallout 3 had just released the year prior, Rage was also in the works, and it looked very similar to both of those games. But once they changed to the cel shaded art style, I suddenly became interested. It gained personality. Combine that with some coworkers that were really into the game, and I decided to give it a go.

I had never played a western RPG prior to Borderlands. I shied away from anything that had leveling up, stats, and perks, which is funny now considering how much I love the genre. This was my first taste, and I was very befuddled about what I was supposed to be doing, but luckily I had friends to play with to help me along. I immediately fell in love with the people and locations of Pandora. The game was full of design problems and bugs that somehow added to the wackiness and charm. Before I knew it I had logged over 100 hours into the game, and that was before any of the season pass content was released.

Speaking of which, with the exception of Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot, all of the DLC for Borderlands is top notch. The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned was a fun diversion while The Secret Armory of General Knoxx and Claptrap's New Robot Revolution felt like natural extensions and brought the story full circle (quite literally). It's not as great as Borderlands 2, but the original is still a great game that any fan of shooters or western RPGs can appreciate.

This game also has the distinction of being the thing that made me start liking that stupid Cage the Elephant song.

1. Alan Wake

I think Alan Wake is one of the most underrated and underappreciated games of all-time. If there is any game that I want to get a sequel, it's Alan Wake. Though there was a follow up in the form of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, developer Remedy stated that it's more of an "in universe spin-off" rather than a true sequel.

The game follows acclaimed thriller novelist Alan Wake as he tries to solve the mystery behind his wife's disappearance while vacationing in the pacific northwest. Over the course of the game, you discover pages from Wake's latest novel (which he doesn't remember writing) that predict the events that soon take place. I think it's such a great premise for a story, but not only that, I loved the twist to the combat we see in most third-person shooters. Rather than just pumping your enemies full of bullets, all of the enemies are covered in "darkness," and you must remove the darkness before you can damage them by shining your flashlight on them, at which point only a couple of shots will take them down.

The game is laid out like a television show, with six episodes that start with a "Previously on Alan Wake" segment, as well as a "Next time on Alan Wake" at each episode's conclusion. It pays homage to things like Twin Peaks, The Twilight Zone, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock, The Shining, etc. If there's one gripe I have, it's that each episode begins with the "Previously on Alan Wake" cutscene and uses it as a way to take your weapons away from you. You do get the weapons back over the course of the episode, but I just hate when games do this. In horror games, you usually hold on to your more powerful weapons for bigger enemies, but in this case, you may as well use them because they'll just be taken away from you.

There are many memorable sequences in Alan Wake, though none more so than the battle at the Old Gods of Asgard concert stage. The game also has a great soundtrack with many songs from European band Poets of the Fall, who I wouldn't normally listen to but their music fits so well with the tone of the game. Sometimes I listen to them just because it reminds me of Alan Wake. They're kind of like the band HIM, only less terrible and less affiliation with Bam Margera.

The greatest tragedy in all this is that the planned sequel was scrapped and turned into Quantum Break. I want my Alan Wake 2! #AlanWake2

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the other things I do.

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  1. I think civ IV should be on the list. Still to this day one of the greatest strategy games made on console. I think the list of 1+2 is solid deadly premonition aka twin peaks story was lacking and gameplay was rough. Ghostbusters as a story was okay but I have a true hatred for that game. It was developed by 2 teams one for multi and 1 for campaign. Of course the multi team went out of business and hence quit releasing patches. I was at the point a huge achievement person and there was a 10 gs ach that was for catching all legendary ghosts and they forgot to put spawns in for the last ghost and hence produced an incomplete game. I know that doesn’t affect your opinion but I hate incomplete projects. Good article though Dustin.

  2. Civ is one of those games I remember you telling me you really loved, but I still haven't played it. I'm sure that once I do I'll love it, but that's pretty much the reason I didn't include it.

    I remember that story about Ghostbusters, too. Funny enough, any time I think about that game, I think about that story and remember how mad it made you. Thanks for reading, friend.