I don’t know that I’ll ever find the right words to describe my relationship with our Xbox 360. Since picking up its controller some six years ago, we’ve run the gamut of emotions, from adoration to frustration. I’ve not played many games on the console, but those few that I have remain the ones into which I’ve sunk the most hours. I mean, the Mass Effect games alone count for months worth of gaming time. And as I look at my list, it pains me to choose only a handful of jewels among the diamonds. If I could only ever use a single current-gen console ever again, it would be the 360, and that’s despite its propensity towards death. We only went through one red-ring episode, and that was one too many as far as I was concerned. If that were to happen with my 360 on my island…well…I’m sure I could MacGuyver a fix with coconut fibers, sand, and solar rays.
Funny thing about trilogies — sometimes the middle entry turns out the be the best. True with Star Wars, not true with Indiana Jones (and no, Crystal Skull doesn’t count). Only time will tell as far as this goes with the Xbox line. But as I gaze upon the brawny, black box of the Xbox One, I can’t help but think of the hulking original Xbox. The 360, on the other hand, which was released in late November 2005, is downright sleek and slinky compared to its predecessor and successor. If you managed to get one at launch, you were lucky, as the thing was very hard to find that holiday season. The 360 had some solid launch titles, such as Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero, and Need For Speed Most Wanted, which certainly helped with sales. Xbox Live, including the Arcade and the Marketplace, was retained and upgraded from the old system. In recent years, as Microsoft has attempted to turn the 360 into an all-around entertainment device that’s compatible with home Windows PCs, several new features have been added, such as Video, Music, and SmartGlass.
Before Assassin’s Creed became a yearly release, the original game was a welcome departure from your run-of-the-mill third person, action-adventure game. AC was a simple game with a rather complex/perplexing story involving a technological collision between the ancient past and the present. You played as a 12th century assassin named Altair who was brought to life in the past through a guy in the present named Desmond Miles. While the game offered plenty of enemy encounters, a good portion of it was devoted to Altair’s stealthy kills. As someone who spent most games barreling in and shooting things up, the stealth mechanic was quite new to me, and I welcomed the challenge. Unfortunately, my impatience got the best of me near the end of the game and I never finished it. This has always bothered me because I really enjoyed the game; and I promise to enjoy it again once more on this here island.
As great as the original Fable was, Fable II overshadowed it by leaps and bounds. The basic elements of Fable remained — exploration, character customization, moral choices — only this time the world of Albion was bigger, brighter, and more exciting. Choices made early in the game (such as saving or destroying individuals or villages) affected later environments. You could follow the main story quests or freely roam and play the quests in whatever order you chose (for the most part). Interactions between you as the Hero and NPCs were expanded to include numerous “expressions.” But most importantly though, you had a dog in Fable II; and the companionship was awesome. I played through the game twice and would most certainly play through it again if only to catch many a side quest that I know missed. Plus, between the clothing, hairstyles, make-up options, and dyes, I could spend an eternity just dressing up my Hero! Look, I’m probably not going to get cable on the island, so I’ll take entertainment in any form.
Red Dead Redemption
There aren’t many games like Red Dead Redemption. Its story, setting, and characters are unique, even among Rockstar’s hallowed halls. It’s hard to not become immersed in the story of John Marston and his search for identity and redemption in the “Old West” meets “New Age” world of stagecoaches and steam trains. I had my own issues with a few flawed plot points and some glitchy controls, but overall the game was nothing short of fantastic. Each of Marston’s quests placed another piece in the puzzle that was his life, and the game unfolded in the way that great novels do, page by page with mounting tension at each turn. RDR is not a game of moral choices — Marston’s path is fixed no matter how the player plays it — but it is a game of morality. It’s a game that demands full attention, even if the task at hand is herding cows. It’s one of the most memorable and arresting games I’ve played in recent memory.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Having had no prior Grand Theft Auto gaming experience, I didn’t expect to enjoy GTA IV as much as I did. I didn’t expected to become drawn into Niko Bellic’s Liberty City adventures. But from the opening scenes, I was hooked. There was something so earnest about Bellic despite his shady background. As his story progressed, and as he was driven farther and farther into the city’s rancid underbelly, I couldn’t help but become so very intrigued. I wanted to “help” Bellic do the right things knowing full well that most circumstances were beyond anyone’s control. I completed the main story over several weeks, and went back every now and again to complete a side mission here and there. Even so, I rest at 80% completion with the game. I’m not a completionist, but I still feel compelled to fully finish the game…someday.
Mass Effect 2
The choice between ME 1, 2, and 3 came down to one factor: characters. While ME 1 and 3 had story missions in droves, the character loyalty missions in ME 2 were, for me, the best things in the entire trilogy. I’ll admit to having a little trouble getting into ME2’s story at first — it wasn’t until several missions in that I really understood what was going on with my “reconstructed” Shepard and Cerberus. But I ended up really enjoying the way the story played out on its own and through the loyalty missions. And it was great to have a mix of familiar and new faces, each with their own stories that meshed well within the Mass Effect universe. I played through the game once, and I started a second playthrough but never finished it. AND I still have two other imported ME Shepards waiting in the wings for their chances to evolve. ME2 will no doubt keep me very busy for at least a portion of eternity…at least.
So there it is folks, my last “Deserted Island” list for consoles. (Yet, there’s still one more list!) I’ve had an amazing time looking back through all the consoles I’ve owned and used – though it’s with mixed feelings that I think about just how long ago Atari came into my life. In any event, the 360 is high on my list of all-time favorite consoles, and I think this list turned our quite nicely, even if it is a little RPG-heavy. What are your all-time favorite consoles? Let me know in the comments; and be sure to come back next time for the final installment in my “Deserted Island” series — PC games!