Friday, 3 February 2017

Flashback! The Origianl Xbox

The beast and the best in terms of consoles, that I hold close to my heart, when expressing my passion for console gaming. For this reason, I have chosen to write about my own history of gaming, still to this day, on a system, that could of been the death of Microsoft in the console wars.

Back in 2002 I was coming out of my massive adventure with the Sony PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 had been released and a lot of my friends were getting them for Christmas, as did one of my brothers, so I was experiencing, first hand, the advancement in technology that was clear to be seen with the new gen. However, I held out after hearing of Microsoft's intention to also enter into the games console business, which I sensed would produce a much more powerful console, given that Microsoft made powerful PC's at this point. I wasn't a massive PC gamer, but I had played enough games to understand that there was always a noticeable difference between playing games on a desktop and playing games on a console. Once I had my first Xbox, there was a noticeable difference, a difference that almost retired me from PlayStation gaming, save for the release of the PS4, which got me back into gaming big time. 

So two things happened in 2002 (well a lot of things actually).
1: In October of this year my son was born into the world.
2: Christmas of that year I was handed my first Xbox.

The first Xbox that I owned was a crystal (clear) Xbox, with the games Colin McRae Rally 3 and Splinter Cell. (Shout out to the ex's mother for that one).
 Colin McRae 2.0 had been one of my favourite games to play on the PlayStation, so I was excited and not disappointed with the third instalment. Splinter Cell however I couldn't get into, mainly because of a new born baby being in the home, I just couldn't play for long enough to give it a serious play through. So instead I opted for games that could be put in and played without the worry about having to keep up with a story or play through long levels. I was still fanatical about football (soccer) at this point and was hugely disappointed that my favourite football game at the time, (Pro Evo) didn't transfer over to the Xbox, mainly because of the focus on analogue control, which interrupted the flow of the game that was apparent when using the PS2 control pad. I was also disappointed with the lack of a Resident Evil title; Resident Evil being my favourite survival horror series from the PlayStation, which continued over on the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. Putting those disappointments to one side, the lack of familiar games to begin with, pushed me into exploring new titles that were not necessarily exclusive to Xbox, but not what I would of usually went for. 
'When I was young, I was all about comfort and familiarity, so I either played what was popular with my friends or stayed within the confines of the series of games that I knew best.'
 My gaming on Xbox lasted all the way up until the release of the Xbox 360, which I naturally graduated to. Over the course of the years since 2005, the big black X has been in and out of my possession, with me currently owning two modified boxes.
I loved my time playing Xbox in the early years and I played many, many titles, which I will aim to write about in more detail, keeping it down to around 10 of my favourite games that I either played all the way through or played and have come back to today.
But, before getting to the games, there is one other thing that I would like to touch on.
I played a lot of titles that I just didn't get for one reason or another, so gave up on a lot of games early on, to find out later on down the line, that it was more my state of mind that impacted game play, rather than confusing development. I was in a dark place both mentally and emotionally during this period of my life, so it has been a delight, to be rediscovering the Xbox, all over again these past few years, with a completely enlightened perception of myself and this world that I live.

The Games

1. Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. 
Not at number 1 because I deem it to be the best of the games that I played, but more because it is the
most memorable and the game that I was hyped over more than any other. Why? Well it is simple. I am a graffiti artist. I had been at the peak of my graffiti art (illegal) career when it was announced and had spoken prior to this about how a graffiti art game would be the dogs bollocks of gaming. Added to this, it is also the works of Mark Ecko, who's clothing line was massive and worn by heads such as myself. (I can still remember the red jacket that I owned). Putting the art to one side, you can also play this game simply for the beat 'em up, action adventure that it is and have a ton of fun doing so. As a graffiti artist, the highlight of the game is the real life graffiti artists and graffiti hot spots that you come into contact with throughout the game and of course the banging sound track that hosts none other than the infamous Mobb Deep.

2. Still Life.
One of my favourite games on Xbox period and a game that I am still yet to beat. Since the first time that I owned it, I have made three attempts to get through this game without (as much as possible) using a walkthrough. To say that it is difficult is an understatement, but this doesn't stop it from being an enjoyable, if frustrating game to play. The sequel to a PC game (Post Mortem), Still Life is your typical point and click adventure, in the style that was common place in 90's PC gaming; very difficult, but often graphically superior to any console release and voice acted rather well. Still Life is in this manner and completely blew me away when I first put it on to play and marvelled at what I was seeing. It does however look a little dated today. The plot is a murder mystery, similar to the case of Jack The Ripper. There are many shocking moments and a little nudity, which at the time, would of been rocking the boat a little, had there not already been so much attention, on some of Rockstar's games. Still life is exclusive to Xbox (there is a PC version).

3. Deus Ex: Invisible War.
Before I even knew of Deus Ex or the Illuminati for that matter, I had played and completed Invisible War. I cannot remember the purchase, but I can remember how consumed I was with completing the game once I had gotten into it. It was a little different to what I was used to playing at the time. For a start, it is a stealth game and my head was mashed at this point in time, so I don't even know where the patience came from in order to get through it. Having said that though, I do know that I was relentless in finishing this fantastic game (better than the later titles). The plot is thick in conspiracy dirt and like a lot of games that I love, there are some rpg elements to how you go about shaping the story, which for this reason it is, that it had me truly captivated from beginning to end. Graphics wise, this was also one of the best looking games at the time.

4. Second Sight.
When I think of this game, I also think of the film Dreamcatcher. Give me a plot involving aliens and 9 out of 10 times I am there until the end; as with the above Deus Ex, I was with Second Sight right up until the end. Also this is another game that involves a lot of stealth. Now that I think back, I actually finished a few games that were similar in style, which is an achievement in itself, given that I stopped playing a lot of games just because I got stuck at a certain point. Second Sight, once you get past that dammed training exercise (that almost stopped me going further), starts to play out a little similar to Fahrenheit (which I also love), but without all the button mashing to get through quick time events. You control the protagonist John Vattic (who has mysteriously developed psychic abilities), through an awesome action adventure that ends with some alien shizz going down at the end.

5. Vietcong: Purple Haze.
Probably not one high on many people's list of top games, given that there has for a long time been an abundance of war games that attract huge followings. I am not that fussed about said games myself, however I have been in love with films about the Vietnam war since childhood and it was this love that pushed me to purchase Vietcong: Purple Haze. The game has an air of realism to it, at least it feels like you are watching an over the top American version of what went down in the heated jungles of the Nam, back in the 60's and 70's. I have no doubt that the makers of this game, have at least a similar interest to my own, if not being huge fans of such movies too. The game is a tactical fps. You take charge of a squad of special forces, going through various missions, where the aim is to keep your squad alive as well as fending off enemies and completing objectives. It took me a while to get used to the tactical side of thing's, especially given that at this time, my OCD was crazy; I had to do everything perfect or start again. Once I did get past this though, I saw the game out until the end, which is something straight out of Platoon.

6. Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.
To be honest, I just didn't get it at first. The same was to be said about Fallout 3 also. It wasn't until I had an operation and had nothing to do but sit and play Fallout: New Vegas, all day, that I finally got into the series in a big way. I found the game difficult to play first time around (not passing the first boss) and dialog heavy in a way that I couldn't concentrate properly on what I was supposed to be doing. However the second time that I played this game, I absolutely loved it; especially the humour that is present in all of the games that I now have in my collection. The game is an arpg, in a top down style that you could call a console version of a classic PC style rpg. I didn't get to finish the game, as I started to play it again just as I was on the verge of a break from gaming. Recently I picked up the Xbox version, then days later the PS2 version, which I found in a charity shop. That was a good find, as the game has become sort after, with prices seemingly on the up for a second hand copy. Of all the original Fallout out games, this is the one that I suggest all try out.

7. Gun.
Lets just say that I have unfinished business with this game. I saw it advertised on the TV and knew right away that it was going to be a game that I would enjoy immensely. It was and I played it constantly, right up until I got stuck on a boss battle and then, I gave up, just as I had with many games previously and many games after. Back then, I was such a purist. I wouldn't use cheats or guides to get through games, which meant that I would abandon games no matter how close to completion I was. On the plus side, I have many games still to finish and less stubbornness today. Gun is a fantastic Western, action adventure, in an open world, with all of the stereo-typical scenarios that you would find in an old Spaghetti Western. Expect a good old show of cowboys and Indians.

8. Need For Speed Underground 2.
The best of this long running (and now shitty) franchise and a game that I played the heck out of. Of my first run on the Xbox when I was younger, this game and one other were played more than any other. The second game, we are coming too soon. I loved Underground 2 back then and I still love it today. I borrowed the first Underground game from a work colleague, when I was borrowing a PS2 from my then girlfriend's brother (it was complicated). The game was a refreshing update to a series of racing games that had been released mainly on the PS1. Shortly afterwards, Underground 2 came out and I purchased a copy for my Xbox. It was even better than the first game in many ways; graphics, game world, cars and the ability to upgrade and mod them, music and so much more. The thing that I enjoyed the most (as did my one of my brothers, whom played the game with me) about Underground 2, was the modifications that could be made to the cars; it truly made for an immersive experience, not just a straight up race game.

9. Championship Manager 02/03.
I grew up a football fan and became a football addict in my teens, which sounds so alien to repeat, as today you couldn't pay me to go and watch a game of football. During the years that I was an addict, I was bang into playing football games and sims, such as Championship Manager. This is the second game that had more hours (often into the early hours of the morning) dedicated to it than any other game that I played. A slightly stripped down version of the PC game, that my friend and I had battled it out on against each other since the previous season. I was obsessed with it. I played Championship Manager daily, for hours on end, especially at the weekends, beer in hand, winning every league, cup and award possible. And then I gave up on football and now it doesn't even feel like those days existed. It was fun whilst it lasted and probably the only time that Newcastle United will ever win the Champions League.

10. Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
Finishing up with one of the best horror games that I played back in the day; a game that I got stuck in and never completed. It pained me at the time because I had been so into completing Legacy of Kain, thoroughly enjoying the dark story play out, something didn't make sense and I gave up. Recently I picked it up again and do intend to go back through to completion this time around. The series is an old one, with intertwining stories, that really deserves a continuation. The story of the game, has a split timeline, giving you control of two protagonists, Kain and Raziel, in what is a vampire, action adventure game with some hack and slash elements. If you like your horror games and haven't played any of the games in this series, then I recommend that you do.

So there we have it. My Xbox adventure and the most memorable games that I have played so far. The adventure continues. I own two modded Xbox and now have a library of around 100 games that I intend to play. The console was ahead of its time, which is seen in the fact that some games were outputting at 720p; meaning that you can play games on your HD TV, without them looking shitty. The other thing that makes this console a fantastic system to stick with today, is its ease at being modded, given that it is essentially a stripped down PC, there are many things that can be done to it to enhance it; for example I have a massive hard drive on one and a massive library of emulators on another. Oh and one more thing...collecting for Xbox in the UK, right now, is cheap as chips. 

Happy Gaming!

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