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Five Years Later: 30 Minutes With Three Xbox 360 Launch Titles

JGaskill
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Posted November 26, 2010 - By Jake Gaskill




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Xbox 360

This week marked the five-year anniversary of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. As we do with all big anniversaries, the staff put together a piece about our favorite 360 memories, and as I was writing mine, I couldn’t help but think, “Gee, I wonder if those launch games that I haven’t played since, well, launch are as enjoyable/disappointing as I remember them to be?” Now, while I played a little Call of Duty 2 and Condemned: Criminal Origins, the three 360 launch titles I actually bought were Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, and Project Gotham Racing 3. I have very clear memories of how I felt about each of these games at the time, so I decided to pop in these titles, give myself around 30 minutes to reintroduce myself to them, and offer up my five-years-since-launch impressions. Enjoy. And feel free to play along at home.

Five Years Later: 30 Minutes With Three Xbox 360 Launch Titles

Kameo: Elements of Power

What I remember: A while back, we compiled a list of our first 360 Achievements, and as luck would have it, my first one was from Kameo, making it the very first game I ever played on my brand new console. Prior to playing it again yesterday for the first time in five years, I had very fond memories of Rare’s colorful action-adventure romp. I remember it had a vibrant presentation, great character designs, and large scale battles that pitted you against hundreds of enemies at once. I didn’t remember much about the story, but seeing the opening cinematic again helped jog a few dusty cogs.

2010 Impressions: Kameo is still a great looking game. Funnily enough, even though the cutscenes appear to be in-game, the gameplay looks noticeably better. And actually, seeing the game in action again after all these years definitely brought back memories of my first play through. The sense of scope as Kameo, with the help of her elemental warriors, battles her way to the top of an engulfed castle encircled by countless dragons overhead. The gameplay felt a tad sluggish, but the characters and their animations are still wonderfully detailed, and I still love being able to see Kameo hidden inside each character. The score is also pretty great, something I didn’t remember, which is strange, because I’m a huge nerd when it comes to game scores. Based solely on the first level of the game, Kameo holds up quite a bit better than I would have expected. The 360 has certainly come a long way in the past five years, but if I had the time, I wouldn’t mind playing through it again, just for old time’s sake.

Five Years Later: 30 Minutes With Three Xbox 360 Launch Titles

Perfect Dark Zero

What I Remember:
I was a big fan of the first three-fourths of the original Perfect Dark for the N64, and while it was no GoldenEye 007, the futuristic shooter was entertaining and built on the GoldenEye foundation in some interesting ways. So, like any fan, I couldn’t wait to see Joanna Dark make the jump to the next-gen in PDZ. Before yesterday, the only things that came to mind when I thought back about the game were that I loved the explosion effects, the glint off the guns when you reloaded was rather slick, it was bizarre shifting to third-person when you rolled or got into cover (if you get into cover, since it never seemed to work the way it was supposed to), and there was a super annoying mission towards the end that played out in a canyon that didn’t have a checkpoint for like five minutes in, so if you died you had to start the whole thing over again. I remembered nothing about the story or anything concrete about how the game actually played, and the fact that I didn’t play more than a match or two of multiplayer when it first came out pretty much tells you everything you need to know about my feelings towards the game.

2010 Impressions: Pretty much exactly the same as five years ago. While the opening mission has an eye-catching finale, it pulls the sci-fi equivalent of “it was all a dream” and couldn’t feel more like a tutorial level if it tried. The character models are pretty fugly, even if the ragdoll physics are decent. I still like the design of Joanna’s pistol, and the explosions are slightly less spectacular than I remembered them to be, but the biggest thing that struck me was how heavy the game felt. Five years of playing the likes of Halo and Call of Duty have definitely had an effect on how I expect a shooter to feel, and there is just something off about how Zero plays. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it stood out enough for me notice. Also, the opening title sequence and song are downright horrendous. It’s like a porn flick parody of a James Bond movie. I’m sorry to say, but 30 minutes was just about as much of PDZ as I’d care to relive. Launch games: one good, one bad..

Five Years Later: 30 Minutes With Three Xbox 360 Launch Titles

Project Gotham Racing 3

What I Remember:
I sunk more time into PRG3 than any racing game ever. I actually wasn’t a big racing game fan before Bizarre Creations spectacular racer, even though I had played a bunch of random ones on various consoles throughout the years. But PGR3 struck that perfect balance between simulation and arcade, with the slightest lean towards sim, that from the first street race in London, I was hooked. Some of the overarching memories for me that I recalled this week were: engaging in epic, six-eight minutes endurance races around Nürburgring, the excruciatingly hard cone challenges, the absurd rubber-banding, and the simple satisfaction derived from being able to walk around my garage full of stunning rides in first-person mode. Oh, and replaying the entire game a second time to get all gold medals, which I ended up giving up on after realizing there were four or five that I just wasn’t skilled enough to get. Such a shame.

2010 Impressions:
The game is still quite a looker. The car models and environments are nicely detailed. Not quite as slick as I remembered, but still solid. The cars felt a lot lighter than I recall, but the handling is just as tight and enjoyable as it was the first time around. I had to retry the first race three times to place first, something 22-year-old me would have laughed hysterically at, but that’s really all it took to get the muscle memories firing again. I tried the first cone challenge just for kicks, and I definitely screwed up a bunch of combos by clumsily running over a cone or seven, but I was so happy to see that stunning Las Vegas track again, I didn’t really care. Overall, PGR3 is still one hell of a racing game, which makes the fact that Bizarre Creations is closing its doors all the more upsetting.


In the end, the hour-and-a-half I spent revisiting these three 360 launch titles yielded some pretty positive results. Two of the three titles looked and played just as I remembered them, and the other fell flat once again. The 360 in 2010 is a much different console than it was five years ago, and not just because of Kinect. The caliber of titles being turned out these days would have probably made my head explode five years ago. Yet, looking back, it certainly got off to a very solid start, so it’s not terribly surprising how far it’s come. (By the way, this goes for the PS3 and Wii too; this just happens to be a 360 –centric piece). Seeing where it’s been and where it is today, it’s thrilling to think where we’ll be five years from now. Maybe by then someone will have made a good next-gen Perfect Dark game. We can dream, can’t we?

Should the need arise, feel free to E-Mail me your tips, suggestions, and/or personal philosophies, or follow me on Twitter.

Five Years Later: 30 Minutes With Three Xbox 360 Launch Titles
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