VGBlogger Holiday Review Guide: Xbox 360

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These are the Xbox 360 games we reviewed this year!

Call of Duty Classic: “Old warts and all, though, Call of Duty Classic is a trip down memory lane worth taking, especially if you are at all curious to see where what has become the premier FPS franchise all started and as long as you are mentally prepared to forgive certain age-induced design quirks. $15 is also a fair price for what is a pretty robust offering by PSN / XBLA standards, but I suggest taking the ol’ “try before you buy” approach with this one by downloading the demo version first to check your tolerance of the game’s flaws before making the full investment.” Read the full review for more.

Guitar Hero: Van Halen: “At this point, Activision has surged well past the likes of EA as the publisher many gamers love to hate on, and this game carrying a full $60 price tag only gives such haters extra ammunition. It was nice of Activision to initially offer its Van Halen tribute game as a limited-time freebie to those who bought Guitar Hero 5, and if you were able to snag it for free with that offer I’m sure you are glad you did – I got my review copy for free too and enjoyed playing it like any other Guitar Hero game. But in no way would I ever consider dropping $60 on this game – it’d even be a tough sell at half that price — and therefore I simply cannot recommend it. Even if you are a Van Halen diehard I don’t see how you could honestly justify paying that much for such an uninspired production.” Read the full review for more.

Death By Cube: “Because of its extreme, sometimes brutally unforgiving difficulty, I can see Death by Cube being a divisive game – hell, I’m already seeing that in the polarized review scores and the game’s split-down-the-middle, two-and-a-half star Xbox Live user rating. Personally, I’ve had a ball playing Death by Cube despite its aggravating difficulty imbalance, and wholeheartedly recommend trying out the free trial version. If you like your Xbox Live Arcade games to be innocent little time-wasters, this game is not for you. But if you want a shooter with old-school arcade challenge, Death by Cube should be right up your alley.” Read the full review for more.

KrissX: “But the good news is that, meager difficulty, recycled words and all, KrissX is good, clean word scrambling fun, delivering the instant accessibility and appealing presentation that’s expected of a casual game and that compulsive “just one more game” quality that is so important to a puzzler. However, for such a simplistic game the 800 MS Point asking price is perhaps 400 points too high – at $5 KrissX would be a must-have word puzzler, but at $10 the value proposition isn’t nearly as enticing.” Read the full review for more.

Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond: “However, I must say that Matt Hazard: Blood Bath and Beyond did grow on me the longer I played it. I’ll never quite feel comfortable with the control scheme, but it’s nothing that I couldn’t get used to and that you shouldn’t be able to adapt to, so if you enjoy games like Contra and Metal Slug it’ll be worth your while to at least have a go with the demo version. Unfortunately, the game is fairly shallow in terms of content and replay value (especially with offline-only co-op), so the higher-end $15 price is a tough sell with other better like-genre games to pick from on PSN and XBLA already. But again, there is a demo and I suggest you check it out.” Read the full review for more.

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game: “As pointless as Conquest and some of the other content can be, though, I do have to give Ubisoft credit for at least trying to push a lot of different ideas into the PS3 Avatar — the ideas don’t always pan out, but the effort was there. The Wii version may be more shovelware garbage, but the PS3 version, in my opinion, certainly is not. That doesn’t mean it’s the greatest movie game in the world…it most certainly is not that either. But it is at least a respectable third-person shooter, and if you liked the movie or are simply in the mood for mindless shoot-‘em-up action, Avatar is the type of game that makes for a fun rainy weekend time-waster rental.” Read the full review for more.

Resident Evil 5: Lost in Nightmares: “So if you still have a copy of Resident Evil 5 lying around, go ahead and download Lost in Nightmares (or wait a couple more weeks for the Gold Edition re-release with the full game and all its DLC packs bundled together). It’s not as substantial an add-on as something like Demons of the Badlands for Red Faction: Guerrilla, but for only $5 it’s a great value extender and a fun tribute to Resident Evils of yesteryear.” Read the full review for more.

Fret Nice: “Its main gimmick may be a colossal failure, but event still, you won’t find a funkier, fresher downloadable game than Fret Nice. The $15 asking price is higher than I would prefer – downloadable games over the $10 sweet spot are inherently less desirable – but if you love a good platformer and appreciate games that try something different, you are surely going to love what Fret Nice has to offer regardless of price. You can always download the demo first if you still have reservations, but I say buy it now and thank me later.” Read the full review for more.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom: “But that’s the mark of a great game, isn’t it? I would say so, absolutely. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom may not sate your appetite for long, but it sure is scrumptious while it lasts. You will be hungry for more once it’s over, but still, it’s such a tasty morsel of puzzle gaming goodness that you just have to play it.” Read the full review for more.

Mass Effect 2: “But enough of the negative vibes. Most, if not all, of my complaints are fairly inconsequential when it comes right down to it. I do think BioWare went a bit too far with streamlining certain RPG elements — namely the character progression — and am particularly saddened that such a huge game world generally has very little off-the-beaten-path adventuring. But overall I am thrilled with how the game turned out. After the first game I wasn’t expecting Mass Effect 2 to wow me, but it really, really did. Being able to import my character from the original and seeing how my previous decisions carried over added a nice personal touch that connected me to my character and the story more than I thought it would, and all of the changes BioWare made to the interface, inventory management and shooting mechanics gave the game a more secure identity. There are certain things BioWare still needs to improve by the time the third episode arrives, but as is Mass Effect 2 is a wonderful sci-fi action game and without question a better all-around game than its predecessor.” Read the full review for more.

Mass Effect 2: Kasumi – Stolen Memory: “The brevity of the mission, however, is the least of my worries. As I said earlier, the issue I have is with the value proposition. In a vacuum, Kasumi – Stolen Memory is a decent enough add-on. But when other DLC of similar makeup and substance has already been released for free, the $7 price is a tough pill to swallow. Personally, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this DLC because there just isn’t enough to it. Therefore, my recommendation is simple.” Read the full review for more.

Just Cause 2: “Just Cause 2 is so very close to being a truly exceptional game, but, similarly to a game like Crackdown, it just misses the mark. If you want an exotic playground to run, jump, shoot, drive, fly and parachute slingshot around in, Just Cause 2 is the game for you. But for the most part it’s like going on vacation: it’s fun for a week, but after that you’re ready to move on and get back to life as usual.” Read the full review for more.

Final Fight: Double Impact: “Still, though, Final Fight: Double Impact is everything a retro re-release should be. It brings back two classic arcade games, updates them with modern features like online co-op, leaderboards, Trophies/Achievements and novel graphics filters while maintaining the integrity of the original coin-op versions, and packs on unlockable extras that are sure to stoke the flames of nostalgia inside the hearts of every old-school gamer. What more could you possibly ask for?” Read the full review for more.

Risen: “Overall, my experience was filled with a lot of ups and a lot of downs, but in the end the ups outweighed the downs. Risen is a game that is far greater than the quality of its individual parts – a true diamond in the rough. Save for the incredibly immersive atmosphere and seamless open-world scope, there isn’t one specific part of the game that I would single out and say is particularly special. But collectively, the game’s challenging combat, natural quest integration and compelling exploration elevate it to a level few console RPGs in recent memory have been able to achieve. However, as deeply as I personally enjoyed the game, I concede that it has many technical flaws and consists of a certain design style that I think many console gamers will struggle to embrace. All I can do is strongly urge you to look past the warts and at least give it a chance. I think it just might surprise you.” Read the full review for more.

Final Fantasy XIII: “So, to wraps things up, this is how I see it: Final Fantasy XIII is somewhat of an experimental installment in the series and thus won’t go down in history as one of the franchise’s brightest moments, and for many long-time fans it will probably be shunned for all eternity. But personally, I appreciate Square Enix’s efforts to try some different ideas (Square Enix has often been criticized for NOT trying out new ideas), and even though they didn’t all pay off, I still thoroughly enjoyed my 50-60 hours with the game and plan to go back to complete all of the Pulse side quests when my work load lightens up enough.” Read the full review for more.

Attack of the Movies 3D: “So there you have it. Attack of the Movies 3D was a failure at the point of conception. Bringing a light gun shooter to a platform without a proper light gun peripheral was just plain silly, and the move smacks of a money grab. It’s as if the publisher said “Hey, it’d be a cinch to put this on the Xbox 360 too, so let’s just have it ported over and try to squeeze out a few extra bucks!”” Read the full review for more.

Alpha Protocol: “But even with shaky production values and a somewhat unfinished feel, Alpha Protocol is an outstanding game, and one that is quietly sneaking into position as one of my favorites of this year. As long as you know to treat the game as an RPG and not a shooter, and don’t mind its rough appearance, I think you’ll appreciate its nuanced gameplay and story as much as I do.” Read the full review for more.

Green Day: Rock Band: “Put bluntly, Green Day: Rock Band is an incredibly lazy and uninspired production. Obviously, if you’re a Green Day fan you’re buying this game no matter what I tell you, but in my opinion it is maybe a curious rental at best, a forgettable cash-in attempt at worst. I say don’t bother.” Read the full review for more.

Mafia II: “But I must admit that the more I played, the more the game grew on me. Had 2K trimmed away the false open-world grandeur and focused the game on its linear storytelling — using cutscenes as transitions between missions rather than dull vehicular navigation — Mafia II could’ve been something truly special. But as is, it’s a very solid game held back from reaching its maximum potential by a questionable design choice.” Read the full review for more.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4: “LEGO Harry Potter is indeed a sloppily made game, which is only made more disappointing by the fact that these same technical faults have existed since the LEGO gaming invasion began many years and games ago. But what it lacks in polish and refined gameplay it does make up for with heart, imagination and endless collectibles, and quite frankly, the audience this game is targeting will probably look past the technical shortcomings more than I am able to. Good family fun is what LEGO Harry Potter is, and that’s really all it needs to be.” Read the full review for more.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands: “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands will never be considered as highly as any of its predecessors, and for the most part it doesn’t deserve to be. The story doesn’t really add anything to the series, and once it’s over there isn’t anything truly memorable to go back and relive through multiple replays (a bonus arena combat mode lasting no more than 15 minutes certainly doesn’t boost replay value either). However, the game itself is thoughtfully and competently crafted, from the shallow-but-fun combat to the adrenaline-pumping, reflex-intensive acrobatics that I firmly believe outclass any other action/adventure game of this ilk. The game looks fantastic too, and has an epic musical score to further heighten the cinematic atmosphere.” Read the full review for more.

Mafia II: Jimmy’s Vendetta: “So, let’s get to the question that needs to be answered here: should you buy Jimmy’s Vendetta? Ultimately, my recommendation depends entirely on the platform you own the game on. If you bought the PS3 version and already have the free Betrayal of Jimmy DLC, there’s really no reason to get Jimmy’s Vendetta because it is basically a retread of the same content, only with Trophies and a slightly larger mission count. However, if you’re playing on the PC or Xbox 360 and missed not having the open-world fun of a free play mode, this add-on definitely hits the spot with simple, arcade-style mobster action.” Read the full review for more.

BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den: “BioShock 2 initially caught flack for being an “unnecessary sequel,” and to be honest, I felt that way at first too. But after playing through Minerva’s Den and reflecting back on my time spent plowing through the full game, I’ve developed even more respect and admiration for the game (the multiplayer mode was and still is completely unnecessary though). BioShock was a difficult game to succeed, and while BioShock 2’s storyline doesn’t resonate quite as much as the original’s, it still tells an engaging underwater tale — and I don’t think anyone can argue that the gameplay isn’t a vast improvement. Minerva’s Den only reinforces this, and should this wind up being the last time we get to stomp around in Rapture, it pleases me to see the underwater city close up shop on such a graceful note.” Read the full review for more.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West: “Most of all, I have to commend Enslaved (and its developers) for daring to be distinct and individual in an era in which far too many games have become all too familiar and far too many developers have become scared to let their creativity run loose. Play this game and let developers and publishers know that you want more from gaming than dark-and-gritty shooters, me-too copycats, and lazy sequels.” Read the full review for more.

Clash of the Titans – The Videogame: “What more can I say. Plain and simple, Clash of the Titans is yet another derivative, uninspired movie game with absolutely nothing of value or substance to offer, not even as a rainy-day rental. Hopefully Game Republic can get back on a positive streak with the upcoming Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, which is shaping up to be a promising holiday sleeper.” Read the full review for more.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock: “I’ve grown pretty ambivalent towards the Guitar Hero franchise and music games in general over the years, part of me always expecting to enjoy myself, part of me always expecting to become bored after a few play sessions. Warriors of Rock has, unexpectedly, sparked my interest in the genre all over again and reminded me why I fell in love with Guitar Hero so many years ago. I’m not sure where the series can possibly go from here, but for now I will happily appreciate Guitar Hero as the Demi-God of rock video games once more.” Read the full review for more.

Alan Wake: The Writer: “Combined, The Signal and The Writer are superfluous extensions to a game that I felt was already as complete as it needed to be. But with a game as brilliant as Alan Wake, any excuse to dive back into its world should be jumped on. And even though The Writer isn’t the most substantial piece of DLC, for only 560 MS Points ($7) it absolutely deserves to be played.” Read the full review for more.

Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley: “Whether or not you’ll ultimately enjoy Comic Jumper enough to make the 1200 MS Point price tag a worthwhile investment hinges almost entirely on your view of its abrasive brand of humor. Give the trial version a whirl or simply watch the trailer posted at the bottom of this review, and if the game’s sense of humor hits the spot and gets you giggling from the jump, you’ll certainly get enough of a kick out of the full game to be able to forgive its shortcomings. There sure are a butt-load of unlockables to reward your patience and commitment as well.” Read the full review for more.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1: “What’s most disappointing about Sonic 4 is that, despite the return to 2D, it really doesn’t distinguish itself enough from past titles to deserve the title Sonic 4. To me, the game felt like nothing more than a hedgehog hodgepodge, pulling bits and pieces of old adventures and reassembling them in the guise of a “new” game with HD graphics…running on a gameplay engine that’s not as fast or exciting as the 2D Sonic classics it is attempting to emulate and extend.” Read the full review for more.

Pinball FX2: “Whether you want to buy the complete suite for $32.50 (if my math is correct), download the core engine and import your Pinball FX tables for free, or simply sink an easy $2.50 (200 MS Points) into a single table, there really is no reason not to play Pinball FX2 in some form. And trust me; this game is so fun and addictive that once you start, you won’t want to stop.” Read the full review for more.

Costume Quest: “But that is a small complaint in an otherwise fun loving, easygoing role-playing adventure. Costume Quest is a sugary sweet gaming delight, tastier than any candied treat you can stuff into your face this Halloween or anything other time of the year. I wouldn’t want all RPGs to be this brisk and this basic, but in this instance it works like a charm.” Read the full review for more.

Hydrophobia: “But the good news is that the gameplay, although flawed, is plenty playable, and the HydroEngine is impressive enough to carry the game home. If you can put up with the control and camera quirks, Hydrophobia is a game I highly recommend checking out and hope gets the chance to sustain itself into future episodes as planned. Just play the trial version first to be safe.” Read the full review for more.

Quantum Theory: “Quantum Theory has serious flaws, no doubt. But if you are the type of gamer who can play a game for what it is without comparing it to other games and constantly thinking to yourself, “this mechanic doesn’t work as well as it did in this game, and the graphics aren’t as impressive as this other game,” I think you’ll find Quantum Theory to be a pretty fun ride, warts and all. I sure did.” Read the full review for more.

NBA Jam: “Another concern I know many prospective players probably have has to do with the game being sold as a full retail product as opposed to a cheaper PSN / XBLA title, which is understandable given the game’s roots as a simplistic arcade game. But trust me, this game is packed with more than enough content to keep you slammin’ and jammin’ for days, weeks and months to come, especially once EA gets the server situation stabilized and the online community settles in.” Read the full review for more.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!