RETROspective: SSX3

Why am I playing it?
Another round of backwards compatible games from the original Xbox was just made available on Xbox One and I happened to have one of them in my small batch of games for the old console – SSX3. This game has got a couple of mentions on my blog recently, in posts about sequels and about open worlds. I remember it as a spectacular game of crazy tricks and huge point combos. So, let’s stick it in the Xbox One and see how well it holds up!21-04-2018_11-12-04

Has it held up technically?
Well, thankfully, the short answer is: very well. The graphics have taken an uptick – how much of that is simply due to being output over HDMI rather than SCART and how much work has been done to improve them I’m not sure. The effect however, is great – whilst it is clearly not up to the standard of modern games it’s more than good enough to enjoy it.21-04-2018_11-12-51

Has it stood the test of time?
Gameplay wise I haven’t played anything in the intervening years that has made SSX3 seem dated at all. There has been a huge lack of these extreme sports games in recent years. Time was you couldn’t move for Tony Hawk, Dave Mirra and SSX games being released. Recent years have seen a couple of Steep games but they are rather serious. SSX3 is not serious! Doing impossible tricks off monstrous jumps and landing slightly sideways is what this game is all about. It’s as good as ever.21-04-2018_11-12-53

Is it worth you going back to?
SSX3 is a bargain at the price they are selling it on the Xbox Store but given that you can grab it for even less from various places secondhand, I cannot recommend enough that you get a hold of this title. The chance to play a fantastic game for barely anything is just too good a chance to let by. Backwards compatibility for the win!21-04-2018_11-12-26

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Top 5 Underappreciated Games: Monthly Roundup April 2018

Please see here for previous Top 5 Round Ups from 2018:
January: Top 5 Rocket League Showroom Battle Cars
February: Top 5 Open World Games
March: Top 5 Mario Kart 8 Items

Recently I was in a discussion about games that you love that no one else seems to like so much. They just don’t get it, right?! So I got thinking about a way I could be sure that these games were actually less appreciated than I think they should be: Metacritic scores! If you haven’t come across Metacritic it’s a site that gathers together all the reviews of each game (and other things like movies etc) and gives them an average score out of 100. So I looked through my All-Time Top Games List and found the ones that had an average of less than 80. There were 6 in total, so here are the Top 5, plus a bonus:

#1: Mirror’s Edge – Xbox 360/PS3
Metacritic Score: 79
I played a demo of Mirror’s Edge when it first came out in 2008 and immediately knew I had to get it! I was surprised later when it didn’t get glowing reviews. It had a decent and engaging, if generic, story line and the gun play was only OK but all of this was brushed aside by how fantastic the free running was. I played the whole game quite a few times on 360 and on PS3 – it was a joy just to run through the world at top speed. If I was picking any single game to replay it would be this one, without doubt.24-03-2018_21-53-46

#2: Quantum Break – Xbox One
Metacritic Score: 77
Another game that I picked up without really seeing the reviews. I saw a couple of videos of it in action when it was released and went out more or less straight away to pick it up. I’m so glad I did. The gameplay – a combination of 3rd person shooting and controlling time – was great, it looked fantastic and the plot was far more complex than most games. Quantum Break also had 3 or 4 ‘TV episodes’ in it that advanced the story, which was something I really enjoyed but I guess maybe that concept wasn’t for everyone as it certainly hasn’t caught on!25941057304_18a8a9e06b_o

#3: Super Mario Run – Android/iOS
Metacritic Score: 76
This is one of my favourite Mario games ever. Made completely for mobile, it could be played with one thumb but still had all the elements required of a Mario 2D platformer. Perhaps the short-sharp bursts of gameplay didn’t work for people that came to it as Mario fans but as a mobile game it was perfect and the chance to play against others in the Toad Rally mode was great fun too.screenshot_20180326-160206.png

#4: Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Xbox
Metacritic Score: 79
Forget all the usual – and mostly correct – comments about cross overs between video games and other media never working. This game fit into the Buffy mould perfectly, whilst also being a superb game in it’s own right. Story-wise, it had a lot of the same actors from the TV show providing the voices and it didn’t try and reinvent the wheel, playing out like an extended episode. On the gameplay side the platforming and fighting were both top notch. It all came together nicely.Processed with VSCO with  preset

#5: Super Beat Sports – Switch
Metacritic Score: 68
This is the most recent game on this list and to be honest, unless you hate fun (?!), I cannot imagine how anyone wouldn’t love Super Beat Sports! It’s not particularly deep and the quality of it’s mini-games does vary but at it’s core it takes common gaming tropes – rhythm and sports – and combines them into something that prioritises fun above all else. I am mystified by the negative reviews.2018011618031600-B5326B1E58931254287CB2E8DA86D794

Bonus: P.N.03 – Gamecube
Metacritic Score: 63
This game only just squeezes onto my All Time Top Games list, so I can more understand that it didn’t work for everyone. P.N.03 certainly had it’s flaws – the story wasn’t really engaging at all for a start – but I just loved the smoothness and grace with which you could move your character Vanessa around. Somewhere inside it is a basic shooter but on top of that you have elements that feel like a dance game. It had that same feeling of joy from just playing it that Mirror’s Edge has, but in a less complete package. It’s hard to explain so just watch this video!

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Sequels – Addition or Replacement?

Sequels usually fall into two camps for me. Those with storylines like adventure games or first person shooters I consider an ‘addition’ to that franchise – even if the gameplay is improved and tweaked, the story gives you reason to go back to the previous entries. On the other hand, sequels in franchises like sports games or racing games are more ‘replacements’ – they bring advances to the gameplay and give you no reason to go back. Occasionally though, a sequel will transcend these definitions and give you enough new gameplay outside of a story to be a great experience without stepping on the toes of it’s predecessor.
One such example is SSX 3.

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The game before it was SSX Tricky, which was just amazing. It was just outrageous in every aspect – the characters, the tricks, the speed, even the soundtrack. This is still the best game I’ve played in terms of pure fun – no complications or distractions, just massive tricks and massive points.
So where could SSX 3 go? There was no narrative so they couldn’t just tweak the formula and put a new story on it. What they did though, was retain enough of the gameplay – the crazy tricks and the races – whilst placing it in a new setting. Here you had a more complete structure to the events in the game, more organised tracks and mountains and just a little bit of an open world feel. It was a stunning game in it’s own right without diluting the simplicity and, frankly, preposterousness of Tricky.

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I originally played this games on Playstation 2 but have recently picked them up on the cheap for the original Xbox. I’m surprised and pleased to report that they are still fantastic games all these years later! Normally I would only consider one game in this kind of franchise for my All Time Top Games List. If I didn’t use that policy that list would be full of 6 Forza Motorsport games, multiple Mario Karts and a multitude of FIFAs and PESs. But SSX Tricky and SSX 3 are both worthy enough, and different enough, to get separate places on that list.

SSX Tricky Intro from The Gamer Boys on Vimeo.

Now I’m going to head back to Garibaldi and see if I can get back to when I could get well over 1 million points on the way down there!
What about you? Which other sequels have been great without just replacing the game before? Let us know in the comments below.

Round-Up: Top 10 original Xbox games

The recent announcement that we will see some games from the original Xbox brought to Xbox One via backwards compatibility has got me thinking about which games I would want to see on there. I actually have an old Xbox in the house at the moment that I’m borrowing from someone because I fancied having a play through of the first Splinter Cell game again.

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I have mainly enjoyed backwards compatibility of Xbox 360 games to mop up the ones I missed at the time (eg SSX) or to play through a game again before it’s sequel was released (eg Mirror’s Edge). So I don’t know if I actually would go back and play all my favourite original Xbox games if they came up on backwards compatibility but if I did, it would be the ones below. I remember very fondly that console and that time in my gaming life, here are some quick memories from my Top 10 games I played on it:

#1: Halo: Combat Evolved

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‘Shall we do The Silent Cartographer on Legendary?’ I never said no to that.

#2: Splinter Cell

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Knocking out the light bulbs in a room and sneaking past all the NPCs without them ever knowing.

#3: Moto GP 2

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However much I’ve enjoyed gaming there has rarely been anything special about my skills but for some reason I was unbeatable on a bike.

#4: Jet Set Radio Future

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Just spending the entire game grinding on rails and it almost becoming a dance/rhythm game!

#5: Project Gotham Racing 2

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Throwing a Porsche Cayenne around roads at unreasonable speeds.

#6: Forza Motorsport

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I discovered Bathurst for the first time – what a track!

#7: NHL Hitz 20-03

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Having more fun from the violence than the sport! And the crazy character customisation.

#8: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

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Best ever conversion of movie/tv show into a game. Felt like being in an episode!

#9: Sega GT 2002

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Proper handling – even gave Gran Turismo a run for it’s realism-money.

#10: Colin McRae Rally 3

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Being really closely matched in multiplayer with a friend of mine – great racing even when not technically on the same track. N.B. I know this photo isn’t from this game specifically, please forgive me, they are hard to find and I no longer have it myself!

What about you? What are your favourite memories of the original Xbox?

REVIEW: Halo: Combat Evolved

  • Released: 2002
  • Played on: Xbox
  • Also available on: PC, Mac, Xbox 360 via ‘Anniversary Edition’ and Xbox One via ‘Master Chief Collection’

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Fair use, Link

Short Review: This changed gaming in many ways, or shooters at least. The graphics were astounding and the gameplay perfectly balanced. And the story, whilst itself fairly standard, was told in a great way.
Review5

REVIEW: Splinter Cell

  • Released: 2002
  • Played on: Xbox
  • Also available on: PC, Mac, PS2, Gamecube and PS3 via ‘HD Collection’

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By Perplexing – Own work, Public Domain, Link

Short Review: The engaging story and smooth gameplay were good but it was the light/dark dynamic that enabled you to go about most levels in a few different ways of your choosing. I have found myself wishing I could shoot out the lights in other games ever since.
Review5