Xbox 360 Buyers Guide: Holiday 2011

2011 has been an excellent year thus far for gaming; both in terms of retail releases and downloadable games. But of course, there’s still an abundance of great games that are about to hit store shelves throughout the autumn and holiday. So, seeing how I highly regard myself as an avid Xbox 360 gamer – these are the games that I look forward to playing the most this holiday!

5. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

I’m just going to get this right off the bat; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is one of my favorite shooters of all time, as it boasted one of the most thrilling, expertly-paced single-player campaigns in recent memory, as well as some of the most addictive multiplayer action money can buy. While its sequel, Modern Warfare 2, came laden with an absurd amount of crippling balancing issues and despite the fact that the story was completely ridiculous and implausible. Black Ops was a fine game in many regards, packing one of the best narratives in the series to date plus some very welcome improvements to the multiplayer experience that was pioneered by Modern Warfare 2, although it hardly reinvented the wheel. So, now Modern Warfare 3 is on the horizon and I can’t fully stress enough how much I’m hoping for this game to be a true sequel to the superb Call of Duty 4. The new survival mode looks like a really neat addition to the cooperative gameplay and if they can give Soap and Price the send off they deserve and if Infinity Ward can expand upon Modern Warfare 2’s mechanics and make it a more balanced multiplayer experience – it might just put the series back on the right tracks. But please, don’t bombard us with lacklustre map packs, will you?

4. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

The Assassin’s Creed games have been a really weird deal for me. While the first game definitely had some issues –with repetition being chief among them—it was still was one of the most immersive and unique games I’ve ever played. Its sequel expanded upon the mechanics of the first game and completely redesigned the mission structure to allow for a much more varied and involved adventure. Last years Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood was also a wholly entertaining game that sent the series in exciting new directions, with new gameplay elements and an interesting foray into the multiplayer landscape. Now Revelations is set for a November release and it looks incredible. Not only will it conclude Ezio’s story but it will also dwell deeper into the origins of Altair – the assassin from the first game – and as for the modern day timeline involving Desmond.Well it looks bat crap crazy to say the least. Revelations’ narrative will mostly be devoted to Constantinople; a locale that will promise zip-lining, assassinations and free-running acrobatics galore. From what we’ve seen so far, Revelations will introduce a new system that lets you craft makeshift bombs and that the gameplay will be more varied and nuanced. The multiplayer will also receive more modes, maps, customization options and tweaks made to the balance. Ubisoft has proven that the Assassin’s Creed games can continuously evolve at a break-neck pace and introduce just enough new features to make each annual entry in the series seem fresh and worthwhile, and if that holds true this year; I’d be more than happy to spend a good chunk of November locked in my room and immersed in the world of Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

3. Gears of War 3

When you have people like Ice-T, John Di Maggio, Nolan North, and of course, Cliff Bleszinski at the helm for your game, you know it’s got a great chance to be awesome. Apart from looking absolutely gorgeous by way of the new Unreal Engine; Gears of War 3 will be bigger in scope, have a more character-driven story, four player co-op and a well-crafted competitive multiplayer offering (for real this time). The fight against the seemingly unstoppable Locust horde continues while Marcus Fenix is trying to find his dad and with a troubled Dominic Santiago looking more burned out and depressed than ever. Will Carmine survive this time? Will the Cogs be able to fend off the Locust for good? Is Sera a condemned planet? These questions and more have me pumped up for Gears of War 3, which looks to be a spectacular conclusion to one of the most revered series of all time and with a beefed up Horde mode, a new and ridiculously cool looking “Beast mode” and with a campaign that’s said to span over a dozen hours – Gears of War 3 might just be perfect swansong to the series. Also, dedicated servers, yummy.

2. Battlefield 3

I’ll make no bones about it; I’m proud of being a Swede. The Battlefield series is one of our country’s biggest exports and the third (not chronologically) iteration in this massive, multiplayer oriented shooter series is going to hit hard. The new Frostbite 2 engine looks to be worth the price of admission alone –because unlike the engine that preceded it–Frostbite 2 let’s you level entire buildings, chip away cover, deform the terrain and yes, cause massive skyscrapers to implode. Now what happens if you merge that with 24 players (on consoles), vehicles and flurries of gunfire? Unrelenting, gorgeous and sweet, sweet chaos. Not only is this one of the most technically impressive shooters I’ve ever seen, but judging by some of the multiplayer footage we’ve recently seen, it seems like players will a hard time breathing as they strive for battlefield dominance, all while working together with squad mates and striking the enemy with a huge array of military weapons and vehicles – and that includes Jet planes. But that’s only the multiplayer sweet as Battlefield 3 will come laden with a brand new story arc and single-player campaign as well as a brand new cooperative campaign. If DICE can deliver on all of these aspects, then Battlefield 3 might just be one of the most coherent, immersive, content-rich and intense shooters in a long time. October can’t come soon enough.

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is my favorite game of all time; there, I said it. I can’t recall a single game that I have spent more than five and a half years waiting for, but Skyrim just so happens to be that game. Oblivion was the game that ushered me into the world of role-playing games. It was a huge, sprawling, incredibly well-realized and atmospheric game that never stopped giving, and it’s also home to some of the most memorable video game moments I’ve ever experienced. Who can ever forget that quest in which you are invited to a party and the goal is to murder each and every single guest unnoticed, or who can forget that moment where you first step out of the sewers and gaze upon the unflinching sun that basks all of Cyrodill? I have put well over 200 hours into playing Oblivion and I still play it to this very day. At this point, you can probably guess how darn excited I am for the fifth entry in the series – which will introduce dragons, more dynamic gameplay, deeper mechanics and a new radiant A.I system. It also looks ridiculously gorgeous, which is all the more impressive seeing how the game is much bigger than that of Oblivion and Fallout 3 and those dragon encounters just look plain, wicked awesome. I’m well aware that both Revelations and Modern Warfare 3 will strike this November, but I doubt that there will be any game this year that I’ll spend more time playing than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bliss awaits, and on 11/11/11 it shall arrive.