Holiday Videogame Guide 2010: Xbox 360

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The Xbox 360 hit its 5th birthday on November 21 and shows no signs of slowing down. With the "red-ring" failure problems now a memory thanks to the sleek, improved new console design, an Xbox 360 potentially makes a great gift, but be alert to the two models. The less expensive 4GB version (what used to be called the "Arcade" model) may save you $100 up front but it lacks a hard drive. You'll want that space if you plan to buy any games from the massive library available on the system's online service, Xbox Live. The hard drive also allows you to install games for an even quieter and often better performing gaming experience. Our advice is to spring for the 250GB model, which along with the hard drive includes Alan Wake and Forza Motorsports 3 if you grab the Holiday Bundle. If you decide not to, though, the hard drive is available separately for $130.

Then there's Kinect, Xbox 360's new motion control system. We took a good look at the system in our Kinect review when it launched. If you don't have a 360 already, or thought about wanting a second for the bedroom or someplace, buying Kinect in a bundle with the console saves $50. That makes teaming up for gift-giving worth consideration. By itself the Kinect sensor system runs $150 but consider that just the starting point. None of the regular 360 games have Kinect controls so you want to factor in at least a couple of new Kinect games like Dance Central or Kinect Sports to play with the shiny new toy when it gets opened.

For our gift guide, though, we've stuck to a selection of the best ordinary 360 games that we'd be happy to see under the wrapping this year.

Halo: Reach
For: The action player who plays online with friends
Brian says: It's no surprise that multiplayer shooters reign supreme on the Xbox 360 and there are two flagship choices this holiday season—between Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops—but I'm going to recommend Bungie's final game in the franchise because it is near flawless. The campaign is arguably Bungie's best and supports four-player co-op. Firefight is a blast for a group of friends and the multiplayer is very strong and should have some great longevity with Forge World and Bungie's promise of continued support. Just make sure you snag a MS Points card to go along with your gift because the Noble Map Pack will be launching on November 30th and includes three amazing maps. Read my Halo:Reach Review for more.

Mass Effect 2
For: Anyone into the epic sci-fi opera style of Star Wars
Garnett says: This second game in a planned trilogy is equally accessible whether you played the first game or not. Developer BioWare strikes the perfect combination of interesting characters set against a grand save-the-universe story. The natural dialog system and near-movie quality animation in the makes it easy to get swept up in the game. At the same time, tweaks to the combat system keep the action fun, quick, and satisfying. With additional downloadable adventures now out for the game and timing for the third, and final, chapter sure to be announced any time, there's never been a better time to play Mass Effect 2. I took a closer look at the game when it release in our Mass Effect 2 review.

Alan Wake
For: Budding novelists/demon slayers
Xav says: Pulling inspiration from pop culture's spookiest corners, Alan Wake was easily one of the Xbox 360's best exclusive releases in 2010. Developed at Remedy Entertainment, Alan Wake tells the story of a writer who must find his missing wife in the midst of battling horrific demons--both mystical and personal. It's a great example of how, over the last decade, video games have exploded as a great storytelling medium. The action is intense, the characters are memorable, and it includes one of the best licensed soundtracks--for a game not requiring a plastic guitar--that I've heard in years. It's a must own for any Xbox 360 player. Our Alan Wake review takes a closer look at the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
For: Teenagers
Alice says: You want them to experience something unique and challenging, new and inspiring; they want to shoot their mates in Cod Blops then crouch repeatedly over their faces. Even if you're not a fan of the game itself, remember 'tis the season for giving and imagine the sullen glare on their face lifting for a single second as they unwrap your present.

"Yeh," they'll mutter. "Fanks." A memory to treasure. Read more about the game in our Call of Duty: Black Ops review.

Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
For: Fans of Assassin's Creed 2, and those who like their virtual murder sprees steeped in historical fiction.
Jeff says: Rome wasn't built in a day, but Ubisoft managed to build a beautiful rendition in about a year. Brotherhood is the best (and latest) game in the Assassin's Creed franchise. Set in the series' largest city to date, the game is jam-packed with Borgia to stab, improved city-building economics, assassins to command, a huge array of weapons (I love you, crossbow.), and wicked-fun kill-chaining combat. The series' first foray into multiplayer is also a ton of fun, with stealthy hiding and stabbing providing a nice contrast to more typical face-shooting faire. We took a closer look in our Assassin's Creed Brotherhood review.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 26, 2010 9:08 AM

    Ugh, the story in Mass Effect 2 was terrible :(