Anyone who is active on System Wars even sporadically, is forced to take a stance in the ongoing conflict of adolescent fanboyism. Playing games on your computer, for instance, will automatically grant you permanent membership of the glorious PC-gaming master race. But flattering as this status might be, the reality is that, outside of this alternate universe known as SW, PC gamers such as myself are willing to admit that consoles have their fair share of worthwhile games. So much so, that members of the 'master race' will sometimes cave in and go out to buy a console. And what better time than Christmas to get an Xbox 360 and catch up on 7 years of exclusives and so-called 'console exclusives'?
Hence the latest addition to my gaming connection. Fable 3 and Halo: Reach came with the package, and I got Forza Horizon, the game that eventually triggered me to buy the console, separately. Halo's Anniversary Edition was added to the family at a later point. With about a week of 360 experience under my belt, I do not regret the purchase at all, mostly on the account of the many, many hours of fun I've already had with Horizon, a game that does just about everything right when you are willing to ignore its obnoxious presentation and the constant in-game promotion of its DLC.
Still, the experience also reminded me why the PC is my main gaming platform. It is a common complaint that PC gaming is a hassle compared to the convenience of consoles, but even if this were true, that hassle is a small price to pay if it allows you to avoid being surrendered to the crazy antics of console manufacturers. One week was enough to bring back all the frustration I had experienced with the classic Xbox. I'm willing to accept that they charge a small fee to provide a streamlined online experience, but when I discovered that half of the functions on my 360 were practically disabled without a Gold subscription, the temptation to move 2 metres to the right, and sit behind my PC was already considerable. And as I was familiarising myself with the console interface, I came across more and more indicators of a complete absence of ethics on the manufacturer's behalf. Ten dollars to change my Gamertag? Oh, please. Where combining the full enjoyment of PC gaming with a set of principles is difficult already, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that it just can't be done on a console like the 360.
Although the sour taste left by Microsoft's cash-grabbing schemes has not been completely washed away, I did already get considerable amounts of enjoyment out of my new console. The allegation that PC gamers aren't missing out on anything can henceforth be classified as biased tripe. Having been left slightly disappointed by Burnout Paradise's repetitiveness, Hot Pursuit 2010's lacking open world gameplay, and Test Drive Unlimited 2's problematic racing AI, Forza Horizon absolutely, 100% nails the arcade racing genre. The races themselves remind an awful lot of Dirt 2, in the sense that they are accessible, yet with numerous options allowing more seasoned players to give the experience an air of quasi simulation. Meanwhile, the open world is littered with extra challenges, races and collectibles, so that exploring Horizon's fictional rendition of Colorado never feels like you are wasting time. It is simply perplexing how a Forza spin-off seems to have taken all the strong elements from the most prominent open world racing games and combined them into one, seamless experience.
As an avid FPS player, I was pleased to finally catch up with the biggest series I've missed out on since the start of this generation. I quickly noticed, however, that my interest in this title over the years painted a picture in my head that was perhaps a little too bright. While the single player campaign of Reach was a versatile ordeal showcasing some excellent direction, its pacing seemed off, with the campaign becoming interesting too late into the game. Maybe the green hills and large, open-ended zones made me expect too much of a tactical sandbox flavour à la Crysis from this title, but the first few stages in particular made the game feel a lot like a horde shooter, yet without the joy of over-the-top carnage that is imperative in that subgenre. Maybe the multiplayer will do more justice to the game's potential.
Halo: Combat Evolved (Anniversary Edition)
Seeing as I am planning to go through the entire Halo series, this purchase was only logical. I owned the original on the Xbox, but wasn't very good at it, as is attested to by the fact that it took me one playthrough in the Anniversary Edition to get to the point where I quit all these years ago. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the incredible similarity to Reach in terms of gameplay. It is only logical that instalments in the same series feel alike, but some more evolution in the gameplay would certainly not have been an unwelcome addition. It must be said, however, that the pacing of Combat Evolved in comparison to that of Reach is what betrays the game's age. Even the most tedious stages of Reach still showed some sense of progression, whereas Combat Evolved relies an awful lot on the 'ship full of bad guys lands on open space; repeat ad infinitum' configuration for its combat sequences. But of course, it is inevitable that any game comes across as archaic in some areas a decade later, and the fact that improved (though by no means fantastic) graphics proved sufficient in obscuring the game's aging process for the most part, only confirms its rightful status as a classic.
With a big portion of free time lying ahead, my 360 will probably work over hours during the final days of the year. And naturally, I'm more than willing to share the holiday joy. So if you want to play any of the above-mentioned games with me, just add Gamertag Draugen1P to your friend list, and we'll see each other online. I'm mainly looking for co-op partners, but even if you want to finally seize that opportunity to shoot me in the face after all these years, I'm game. Suggestions for what other 360 games I should get are also welcome.