XBLA’s Most Wanted Archive

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Iron Man 3

iron_man_3_coverGames tied to movies have a history of being terrible. They often have rushed development cycles, and most are so tightly linked to the movie that it’s impossible for the developer to have any sort of real freedom during their creation. Sure, sometimes we get an instant classic, and once or twice we’ve been blessed with a genre changer like Spider-Man 2. But let’s be honest, it’s a rare thing when one actually lives up to player expectations.  Developers like High Moon Studios can’t even take their amazing work on the Transformers: Cybertron games and translate that into a good movie title.

Given all this it’s not surprising that publishers are looking for ways to continue to cash in without breaking their development budget. We’ve seen attempts to bring games to Xbox LIVE Arcade, most with poor results. Games like R.I.P.D. and The Expendables 2 are ho-hum on their best day. But smart movie studios have gone mobile. Android and iOS developing giant Gameloft, who were initially known for their console clones N.O.V.A. (Halo) and Modern Combat (Call of Duty), have struck gaming gold with movie tie-ins. By breaking down gameplay to core ingredients they’ve seen success with both Despicable Me 2: Minion Rush and Iron Man 3: The Official Game. Both may be “just” endless runners, yet somehow both are also en..dless fun. And we think Iron Man 3 could be just as fun on the 360.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Archer

Archer_XBLAMostWanted

There’s an uneasy moment when the green light flashes on a videogame adaption of a beloved television series. Call it apprehension, call it skepticism, call it whatever you’d like, but there’s a good reason for knee-jerk worry – most of them don’t pan out. Sometimes the source material isn’t really conveyable in another medium; sometimes the ball is just dropped during development. More often than not it’s a little from column A, and a little from column B, even when the planets have spectacularly aligned to guarantee a surefire success. Whatever the cause, cross-pollinating entertainment can often deliver a dud, but it can also bring about completely new ways to enjoy something we love. In the 24/7 cacophonous overload that is modern-day television programming, there are few series more suited for the game treatment than Archer.

For the uninitiated, Archer follows the exploits of the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) which trots the globe undertaking missions ranging from espionage to personal errands. Without overselling it, Archer is one of the most cleverishly written and reliably funny shows on television, thanks to the character-driven plots that don’t so much focus on the mission at hand but rather the many ways in which the tidy collection of lovable psychopaths will unflinchingly undermine and berate one another.

So what makes Archer suited for the fertile lands of videogamedom? In a word? Everything. Logistically, the show takes place in an intentionally ambiguous time period, seemingly set during the ‘60s while regularly incorporating elements of contemporary culture and other historical eras. The agents have been to space, the ocean floor, a pirate fortress, and most countries in the known world, especially the ones ending in “stan.” With a license to kill, seemingly unending resources, diplomatic-ish immunity and a never ending supply of super villains, communist and/or tracksuit-sporting cyborgs, environmental terrorists and.. regular terrorists – there’s literally no limits to what you would be able to do in this universe. The real question then is – how is Archer not already a videogame?

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Shadowrun (SNES)

As a modern gamer it’s easy to look back on Nintendo’s SNES and create a list of RPGs that would probably include several of the genre’s best examples across all platforms. Back in 1993, though, many western gamers (both in Europe and the US alike) were frustrated by the lack of console RPGs that appealed to their popular culture, despite the undeniable quality of JRPGs like Ogre Battle, Secret of Mana and even Zelda: A Link to the Past. Systems like the Amiga featured all the best “adult” games and no matter what we think now, the SNES, with its army of cute, blue-haired RPG protagonists, was considered to be strictly for kids by most adults.

For many, Shadowrun’s release on the SNES changed everything. Based on a pen and paper RPG and featuring a detailed, complex story that incorporated grizzled mercenaries, violent gangs and an acidic populace of orks, trolls and cybernetically enhanced humans, all crammed into a dystopian future of magic and technology; Shadowrun basically delivered everything that European and American kids had grown up watching in movies and cartoons since the early 1980’s.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: 007 Nightfire

Hey, remember when Bond games weren’t just Call of Duty with different characters? Remember games like Everything or Nothing, Agent Under Fire and Nightfire? You know, back when you actually felt like Bond. Just look at the monstrosity that is GoldenEye 007: Reloaded. Everything about it screams “reboot because GoldenEye was a cash cow”. What a spit in Pierce Brosnan’s face. Not only did they go with Daniel Craig (great actor, terrible Bond), but they threw out nearly everything that made both the movie and Nintendo 64 game great.

But Nightfire was different. It had an original story. It had multiple awesome Bond gadgets. It had Bond moments, and most importantly it didn’t have the jarring “first person cutscenes”. It was fantastic. From the engaging campaign to the top-notch couch competitive multiplayer Nightfire could do no wrong. And with the upcoming retail release of 007 Legends and the SkyFall film Activision will have no way to woo Bond fans next year. This is exactly why Nightfire needs to make a comeback.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Spider-Man

Spidey is no stranger to video games. Wikipedia lists over 30 titles under the webslinger’s banner. But let’s be honest here, only a handful of them stand out. One that is stands near the top of that list is Spider-Man for the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, Mac and PC. It was the first time players really felt like Spider-Man. No longer were we limited to two dimensions. We were (relatively) free to choose our path. While the levels were linear, they had a certain feeling of freedom. You could cling to the ceiling, wrap a thug in webbing, and even web swing for a short time. It was innovative, it was entertaining, and it had all the Spider-Man charm. We want it back.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Gunbound

In the wake of upcoming turn based artillery giant Worms: Revolution, the sheer vacancy of this genre becomes ever more apparent. The genre is populated almost exclusively by Worms, but there are a few other games which have made a name for themselves over the years. One such competitor which has maintained popularity throughout its existence is Gunbound. This free to play online artillery game just had its 7th anniversary since its inception in Korea back in 2005. Developer Softnyx’s approach to the genre includes an extensive item-based stat customization engine as well as several different “mobiles”, each with different elements and stats. At the heart of the game is aiming and shooting, but there’s something strangely deep about it too.

When you boot up a game of Gunbound today in 2012, you’ll note not much has changed in the UI over the last several years. The game has never had a graphical update (that we can tell), you still can’t change the resolution, and there’s still not enough information on each mobile in the mobile selection screen. That said, the amount of content has at least doubled in every respect including mobiles, items, maps, and game modes. While estranged from its early adopters by a lack of true game experience upgrades, if Softnyx were to join Nexon (developers of Dungeon Fighter Live) on Xbox Live Arcade and beef up the presentation of Gunbound, this mobile blastin’ multiplayer game could be just as addictive as it was on PC. Read the rest of this entry »

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Shenmue

One can’t skim the internet without running into a forum thread about the potential release of Shenmue 3–the next installment in a saga that began on Sega’s Dreamcast in November of 2000. Fans of the series sip on every drip of information on its development, though nothing of the sort truly exists. Shenmue’s creator, Yu Suzuki, even left Sega last year though some reports suggest he still has a consultant role within the company. Despite these gloomy prospects, die hard fans are still hopeful that the third of the series will finally breach the coffin it had been placed in so long ago.

William Shakespeare once said: “Love me or hate me, both are in my favor…If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart…If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.

Had William Shakespeare been around in the 21st Century, we believe he’d be referring to Shenmue. Never will you discover a title so adored by critics and gamers and abhorred by others in the same demographic. You play as Ryo Hazuki, an unassuming young man on a quest to avenge his father’s death. In order to achieve this, Ryo must emphatically harass the locals of a small Japanese town by asking questions like the infamous, “Are you guys sailors?” Ryo finds himself in a lot of trouble during his exploration of leads, but he can always stop by the arcade and play an emulated, in-game version of a few arcade hits. Read the rest of this entry »

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Avatar Party

While it could easily be argued that Nintendo doesn’t fit in very will with mature gamers at times, they do have somewhat of a monopoly on a few types of games. Take the Super Smash Bros series, for example. They’ve had total control of the fighting sub-genre they helped make popular since the first game in the series. Sure, great games like Small Arms have had their day in the sun, but Mario and his crew have remained the relatively unchallenged kings. They’ve remained at the top for so long that Sony decided to try their hand with the long-titled PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It too boasts the best that Sony-owned franchises have to offer: characters like Nathan Drake, Kratos and Sweet Tooth. So why hasn’t Microsoft joined in and created a mascot fighter. Kotaku tracked down Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s game studios at E3 and asked that exact question. His response was that players “do not want” that type of game. We disagree, as do the Smash Bros series’ collective 21.45 million copies sold

And what of Mario Party? Would you believe that Mario Party 8 alone has sold more than 7.6 million copies? Mock if you want, but that series is successful because it’s fun. They’re games that anyone, old or young, can get into, understand, and have fun with. It’s great for family game nights, college dorm competitions, double dates, and more.

So where’s our Avatar Party? Such a game does not exist, but it could, and could potentially draw in those players who reluctantly turn on their Wii once and a while to play Smash Bros or Mario Party. We think combining the two could be a potential gold mine, even if we’re not using system-based mascots. So join us as we try something new. Instead of pitching the return of an old game we love, we’re pitching a new one entirely: Avatar Party.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Re-Volt

The summer of 1999 was an interesting time. With the quickly oncoming Y2K scare gas and food prices rose, people were keeping a cache of money outside of the bank, and in general the easily worried population were beside themselves with worry about the oncoming computer crashes that would happen with the new year.

Gamers? We were plugging away at great games on our PCs, Nintendo 64s, and PlayStations. Among the most popular was Re-Volt, an RC-themed racing game where being tiny in a big world meant exciting gameplay. It captured players on the three above platforms as well as the Dreamcast, sucking them in to the oversized world. It was among the few candidates for testing the original Xbox LIVE. Sadly, the game never saw a retail release on the Xbox.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Trials Evolution Nitro Pack

Today’s Most Wanted is our first downloadable content article. As such it has a slightly different format.

The world has been bitten by the Trials Evolution bug. Over 100,000 players saddled up in the first day, and close to 350,000 after just one week. It shattered sales records on Xbox Live Arcade. DLC has been promised. Though we’re more than satisfied with the game’s default content and the endless supply available via Track Central we’re still itching for more. But what are they going to put in? We’ve got some ideas, and even a name: the Nitro Pack, inspired from RedLynx’s own Monster Trucks Nitro.

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