Hottest Xbox 360 games for Christmas and beyond

The Xbox 360 has had a cracking year; not only are there now around 57.6 million of the consoles in circulation, but its motion controller Kinect has done phenomenally well, and we can't remember a single month that didn't have at least one cracking A-list games title for the platform.

Now Christmas is imminent, with floods of new games hitting the shelves, and it seems that, more than any other year, a vast amount of them are of an incredibly high quality. Obviously, this is good for those with insatiable appetites (and bulging wallets) for the latest and greatest, but not so great for granny when she's trying to figure out what to get little Johnny with the last pennies of her pension.

That's where Pocket-lint steps in. We've put together a list of the best games for the Xbox 360 either on the shelves now, in time for Christmas, or will be worth saving your gift vouchers for. So, without further ado, we'll start with...

 

Xbox 360 exclusives...

These are the recommended games that are only available on this specific platform (console, anyway). Not only are they top titles, they also offer bragging rights in order to lord it up over lesser console-owning chums.

Forza Motorsport 4

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

Although there's not a world of difference between Forza Motorsport 4 and its predecessor in gameplay terms, both its scale and light engine have been tweaked to make this the best of a long-running franchise.

The graphics are, quite simply, incredible and there's an amazing choice of cars to whip around real world tracks, including the Top Gear test tarmac. Indeed, as you can drive a Kia Cee'd in the game, you can actually emulate the "Star in a reasonably priced car" section of the popular BBC show.

Admittedly, as more of a simulation than an arcade racing experience, the Forza series isn't for anyone, but if you're the sort that likes to collect virtual vehicles, there is no better game than this on the Xbox 360. And with Kinect support added for vocal commands and head tracking (so that you can see around the cockpit) it's more realistic than ever before.

Read our Forza Motorsport 4 review for more.

Gears of War 3

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

It's been around for a while now (since September), but there's no doubt that Gears of War 3 will still be at the top of a lot of Xbox 360 owners' wish lists.

Larger in scope and more cinematic than ever before (and not so grey or murky), Gears 3 is the last in a hugely popular trilogy and, as such, features a single player campaign that rounds things up nicely. It's also good for beginners too, as the difficulty in easy and medium settings has been tweaked downwards. Hardcore gamers will still find a decent challenge at the harder end of the scale, however.

But it is, perhaps, the multiplayer and co-op modes that will offer the most longetivity, and they are plentiful and mightily playable. It's a very worthy end to an outstanding collection of games from Epic and Microsoft.

Read our Gears of War 3 review for more.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
15 November

We can't believe it's been 10 years since Halo graced the black brick of a console that was the original Xbox, but it has. And we think it would be safe to say that we're not just wearing rose tinted spectacles when we claim that the first in the record-breaking franchise is still one of the greatest games of all time.

Thankfully, a new generation of gamers will now get the chance to find out why, as Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is the original game in shiny new HD clothes for the Xbox 360. And we're pleased to say that Microsoft has resisted the urge to muck about with the gameplay - save for the addition of secret collectables in the single player campaign.

Purists can even play the game as it was intended, in glorious standard definition, although, to be honest, you could probably pick up a copy of the 10-year-old version for peanuts these days, and it runs on Xbox 360 just fine (single player, anyway. The multiplayer server was turned off recently).

But that's not the point. This is not just a remake, it's a tribute to a halcyon period of gaming. And we applaud it.

Read our Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary review for more.

 

Kinect highlights...

We've already focused on a cornucopia of excellent Kinect-compatible titles in our Hottest Kinect games for Christmas and beyond feature, so we suggest you also check that out. Here's a few highlights to get you started.

Dance Central 2

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

The first Dance Central was easily the best Kinect game for the best part of the first year of its life, and from our experience at the showcase event, Dance Central 2 is even better. Although the point of Harmonix's sequel is basically the same - perform specific, listed dance moves in time with the music - there's a couple of enhancements that make it great fun.

For starters, the new graphical style is top banana. But the number one change is the addition of simultaneous multiplayer gameplay, which can be jumped in and out of (literally) as a track goes on. A second player can be waiting in the wings, leap in and dance, and leap out again without disrupting your own flow.

Plus, there's an all new soundtrack including Rhianna, Usher and, most excitingly, Bananarama. Original Dance Central owners can also use their existing DLC tracks in the new game too.

Read our Dance Central 2 review for more.

Deepak Chopra's Leela

Publisher
THQ
Release date
18 November

Not technically a game, Deepak Chopra's Leela is more in the area of personal fitness trainer, except for the mind and spirit rather than the physical body. Its purpose is to help you relax, meditate or bring balance to the seven chakras of your being, by using the Kinect in cunning ways.

For example, there are breathing exercises that, through on-screen graphical representation, teach you to breath from deeper within your body - techniques that aid in meditation. Plus, mini challenges (in which there are seven levels for each of the seven chakras) are designed to aid in different areas covering the body, mind and spirit.

It's all a bit George Harrison, but Doctor Deepak Chopra certainly knows his stuff in the field of mind-body medicine. And, after a hard day's shooting Russians in the chops in Modern Warfare 3, there's nothing better to shake it off than a relaxing session of deep breathing.

And it's a great alternative use of the Kinect, to boot.

Kinect: Disneyland Adventures

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
18 November

While there are mini games contained within the bowels of Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, it is the main premise that, perhaps, excites us most. Essentially, it offers the entire Disneyland Anaheim theme park for you to wander through, meeting Disney characters and generally having a great time without having to leave your living room.

Now, obviously, visiting the real thing, whether that be in California, Florida or Paris, is better, but that can be hideously expensive, especially during a global recession. So, at least with this title, the kids can see the sights without the massive outlay. And they can still shake hands and cuddle Mickey Mouse, Goofy Peter Pan and the like.

The games require some bodily exertion in order to collect coins (which you can spend on in game items), and are each based on different rides in the real world theme park - for example, you can fly with Peter Pan or ride a mine cart through the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - are are a welcome change of pace from wandering about.

It all looks gorgeous, as you'd expect, and we fully expect the game to be a massive hit this Christmas time with the kiddies.

Read our Kinect: Disneyland Adventures review for more.

Kinect Sports: Season Two

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

The first Kinect Sports was essentially Microsoft's answer to Wii Sports, and featured a fun, if obvious, line-up of events for the new Kinect owner to jump, wave, punch and kick their way through. But, with football (soccer), beach volleyball, track and field, table tennis and boxing already rendered, what was left for Kinect Sports: Season Two?

The answer is golf, American football, baseball, tennis, skiing and darts. Each have their own style of gameplay, and unique demands on your body, but they all have the same graphical flourish that developer Rare is known for.

Skiing is perhaps the most interesting as it reminds us a lot of Namco's Alpine Racer arcade machine. You have to weave your body side to side in order to zip through gates during a slalom, tuck to go faster, and even pumps your arms as if you're using ski poles.

But if you're not feeling quite that energetic, you can always settle back for a game of darts. A pint of bitter is optional...

Read our Kinect Sports: Season Two review for more.

 

Multiplatform titles...

These are the games that are available across Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and, in some cases, Nintendo Wii. There may be minor differences between each version, but you can rest assured that they're all as hot as Kelly Brook eating a Deep Heat Vindaloo.

Assassin's Creed Revelations

Publisher
Ubisoft
Release date
15 November

Like Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Assassin's Creed Revelations offers the conclusion to a storyline in a hugely successful videogames franchise. It also sees the return of Altair, the assassin hero of the first instalment, as a playable character - alongside the more contemporary Desmond and star of the latter two chapters, Ezio.

Action this time shifts to Constantinopole (now the Turkish city of Instabul), which, in Ezio's time, is the heart of the Ottoman Empire, and the play area purports to be vast. But, while seasoned Assassin's Creed fans will find much that is welcomingly familiar, the free-running elements have been enhanced. And there's a stack of new weaponry to get used to.

But it is that story that will have you playing to the bitter end. Assassin's Creed Revelations is shaping up to be a more than fitting end to a series that has more and more cemented its position amongst the gaming elite with each iteration.

Read our Assassin's Creed Revelations review for more.

Batman: Arkham City

Publisher
Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment
Release date
Out now

The more you play Batman: Arkham City, the more you realise that it's not just a conventional action game. Indeed, some of the best moments in the open world sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum are when you're flying around this specific corner of Gotham, high above the thugs below.

It's also one of those rare games that, even when the main storyline is long over, you'll find yourself revisiting the campaign mode again and again in order to find all of the secrets, and finish each of the side missions as Batman and Catwoman. Plus, there's plenty of other game modes - such as a challenge mode - to try out.

You do have to have a fondness for Batman, it must be said, as some of the villains and characters may be meaningless to you if you don't, but in gameplay terms, there are few titles out there this year that can compare in depth or variety.

Read our Batman: Arkham City review for more.

Battlefield 3

Publisher
Electronic Arts
Release date
Out now

Coming just before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 both in release date and alphabetically, Battlefield 3 is, perhaps, the one that hardcore gamers were looking forward to the most. And to that end, its strength is on the multiplayer side of things.

The single player campaign's feel is far removed from the last Battlefield game, Bad Company 2, as the comedy and vehicle-hopping action has been swapped for modern day gritty realism (a la Modern Warfare or the last Medal of Honor). It harks back to 2005's Battlefield 2, which is no bad thing although it does stand this specific game up for more direct comparison with MW3.

Multiplayer, however, is utterly brilliant, and many will be picking this up for that experience alone.

Read our Battlefield 3 review for more.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Publisher
Activision
Release date
Out now

It's the end of the Modern Warfare trilogy, and Infinity Ward has hinted that new pastures and settings await the Call of Duty franchise (such as a return to World War II), but what a way to go out...

Massive in depth and scale, it is story that drives the final instalment, offering a single player campaign that you would probably be almost as happy to sit back and watch than play. Voice acting is, once again, superb, and the hopping around the globe for sequences, including visits to London, Hamburg and Paris, give the game an almost James Bond style feel.

Outside of the single player campaign, the multiplayer and co-op modes are no slouches either. CoD Elite handles matches and gamer details brilliantly, and there's enough tweaks from the last MW title to make it feel fresh for experienced online FPS fans.

Read our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 review for more.

Dark Souls

Publisher
Namco Bandai
Release date
Out now

Namco Bandai's sequel to Demon Souls has been somewhat of a surprise hit at the end of this year, surpassing many bigger names in review scores. The Japanese role-playing game may not have had the hype of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and has a very different feel about it, but is no less an enjoyable experience.

Admittedly, there's not much of a plot to speak of, and it favours dungeon crawling to expansive world exploration, but Dark Souls more than makes up for the lack of story depth with incredible combat and boss battles that will rattle your teeth.

The game may not be for everyone -  it's a hardcore experience through and through, and extremely tough to complete for RPG newbies - but an inventive online mode (which offers occasional interactions with other real-world players) and sumptuous graphics reward those who are willing to take the plunge.

FIFA 12

Publisher
Electronic Arts
Release date
Out now

Pro Evolution Soccer may have has a stronger offering this year, but it would take a monumental effort to knock FIFA off its perch, not least because FIFA 12 is a good contender for best football game of all time.

It builds on the excellent gameplay engine of the last version, adding a new impact engine in order to create some spectacular fouls, but it is the inclusion of a new defensive jostling and containg system that really puts this iteration on an entirely new level. The game is now the closest to real world professional football that you can get - but without sacrificing elements of fun, speed and excitement.

FIFA 12 may have been out for a while now (since September), but it's a shoo-in to be top of the games charts this Christmas, or thereabouts.

Read our FIFA 12 review for more.

GoldenEye 007: Reloaded

Publisher
Activision
Release date
Out now

A remake of the Wii version of GoldenEye 007, itself a remake of the classic N64 game, GoldenEye 007: Reloaded certainly benefits from the sumptuous lick of paint offered by vibrant high definition graphics.

For those who didn't catch up with the Wii edition last year, this refreshed title replaces Piers Brosnan with current Bond Daniel Craig, and Sean Bean's 006 with an, erm, slightly podgier character model. The levels, while familiar to fans of the Rare classic from yesteryear, have significant alterations to bring it up to speed with modern gameplay.

But the biggest draw to the new version is the multiplayer. The original brought split-screen FPS action to consoles in trailblazing fashion, and again you can play locally as any one of Bond's famous villains. However, now you can go online too, which adds a new element to an excellently fun feature.

Read our GoldenEye 007: Reloaded review for more.

Mass Effect 3

Publisher
Electronic Arts
Release date
9 March 2012

The first Mass Effect was an incredible role playing game, the second added a combat engine that was a vast improvement, while the latest - due out in 2012 - promises the most radical new feature of all; multiplayer.

The online aspect will come in the form of a co-op mode, with the storyline being able to be played by more than one player for the first time. Additional co-op characters will also be made available through downloadable content, and while developer Bioware claims that the perfect "ending" can only be achieved through the single-player campaign, there will be other endings exclusive to multiplayer.

However, great feature or no, you only need to look at the stunning amount of game time it took to complete the first two in the series to know that your Christmas money will be well spent on Mass Effect 3. 

Max Payne 3

Publisher
Rockstar
Release date
30 March 2012

It's been eight years and counting since the last Max Payne game, and he's never made an appearance on a "next generation" console before (bar compatibility with the Xbox version added to 360). This is also the first of the trilogy to be developed entirely by Rockstar in-house (the former two being created by Remedy Entertainment). However, that's no bad thing, coming from the team behind LA Noire, Red Dead Redemption and the GTA franchise.

Action this time around focuses on a much older Max Payne who, like Denzil Washington in the movie Man on Fire, has taken up a private security job in South America - specifically, Sao Paulo in Brazil. Of course, things go tits up, and that's when the trademark blazing guns are called into service.

As with the originals, you should expect a lot of bullet time, slow mo and introspective commentary, although a multiplayer mode will be a new, if not overly essential addition.

Need for Speed: The Run

Publisher
Electronic Arts
Release date
18 November

Sort of the racing game equivalent of The Cannonball Run (film and real world race), Need for Speed: The Run is different to most driving titles in that it dispenses with laps and set tracks for a mad dash across America.

The 18th game in the Need for Speed series (staggering, eh?), EA's latest asks you to take part in an illicit high speed, high stakes race from San Francisco on the West Coast of the USA, to New York on the East. Millions will go to the winner, most likely death and destruction to the loser.

Interestingly, this will be the first of the franchise to use Battlefield developer DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, so should look absolutely top notch. And there's over 300km of track to traverse, making it the largest Need for Speed game of all time.

There's also a plot this time around, in order to keep things moving along cinematically. And EA even hired Transformers director Michael Bay to cut together a trailer, which we love in Pocket-lint towers.

Saints Row: The Third

Publisher
THQ
Release date
18 November

The first Saints Row was a good, if obvious Grand Theft Auto III clone. The second bended the rules of reality somewhat, in order to distance itself from Rockstar's franchise. And this third is the zaniest, wackiest, most bonkers edition yet. Which is a very good thing.

Once again, you take the mantle of the leader of the Third Street Saints gang. This time around though, the action has moved from Stilwater to the city of Steelport. which you must take over with as much gusto and inventive mission competition as ever before.

Celebrities lend their voices to the latest game, including the return of porn star Sasha Grey, while she's joined by WWE star Hulk Hogan, who takes on the role of professional wrestler Angel De LaMuerte.

However, it is the incredibly over the top themeology, gangs that wouldn't look out of place in The Warriors, colour schemes and graphical flair that graces both single and multiplayer that will entice gamers who are looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

Publisher
Activision
Release date
Out now

Not just a game, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure comes with an accessory and toy figures in the box that adds a whole new element of interactivity for kids. The portal hooks up to the console, and when one of the plastic figurines is placed on top, it is that specific avatar that becomes the on-screen playable character.

What's great about this is that, considering that the main game is essentially a 3D platform/puzzle affair, each character offers different powers, and can even unlock different areas in the game world. Plus, while you get several in the box - including the eponymous Spyro - other packs of creatures are available, so there's a toy collecting element that young boys, certainly, will love.

The game's storyline and characters were also crafted by the Oscar-winning screenwriters of the original Toy Story, so you can be rest assured that it is as captivating as it is a cunning concept.

Sonic Generations

Publisher
Sega
Release date
Out now

Sonic is now 25-years-old, although he doesn't look a day over 12. However, as we can't exactly claim to be experts on the effects of ageing on male hedgehogs of the blue variety, we can't be sure. But there's one thing we can be sure of, the fast platforming pace of the wee blighter is still as welcome today as it's ever been.

Sonic Generations does have some 3D bells and whistles, but it is its 2D retro fare that will have anybody over the age of 35 giggling like a schoolkid. And, like with before when it was Sega's main weapon in the battle against Nintendo's Mario titles, the main selling point to this tribute game is in its speed. It whips along like a cheetah... strapped to the underbelly of an F-14 Tomcat.

Some modern gamers may not appreciate its undoubted charms, but they can languish in the wake as we dash forward, while simultaneously looking back with warm fondness.

Read our Sonic Generations review for more.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Publisher
Bethesda Softworks
Release date
11 November

It's been a long time coming, but the sequel to Oblivion is looking to be well worth the wait. For starters, it's absolutely stunning, with a graphical style that hits both the last Elder Scrolls game and Bethesda's other RPG franchise Fallout 3 for six. And it's no waif of a game either. If you enter the world of Skyrim, it's likely to consume a month of your time... At least.

Of course, as an open world role playing game, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim offers a myriad of ways to play, orders to play them in, and more side missions than you can shake a stick at. But it is the main storyline, where dragons have returned to the land to devastating effect, that will inevitably have fans coming back for more.

You can also see why it took so long to release, with the amount of voice acting and background detail crammed into every nook and cranny of the game world. And it also promises a larger variety of character models than ever before.

It may not appeal to some. There are some that may not have the time to divest in it. But Skyrim is undoubtedly a mammoth project that will sate every RPG enthusiasts wants, and more.

Read our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review for more.

WWE '12

Publisher
THQ
Release date
25 November

We've always been fans of the WWE franchise of games, even before the World Wildlife Fund managed to get the "sports entertainment" brand to change its moniker. And WWE '12 is the first to dispense with the RAW vs Smackdown suffix that has been lingering for some time.

That doesn't mean that everything's changed, however, as much of the graphical style and options remain from former games. Creation mode, for example, is again a large part of the game, although a created wrestler gets even more attention than the most recent forebears, as he/she will be part of the new storyline in the "Road to Wrestlemania" storyline.

What's new, though, is the replacement of player-controlled weak/strong grapple moves in favour of a fighting system that pulls off different moves depending on the energy of the opponent. As they tire, you'll be able to enforce alternate actions.

But what makes any WWE game, for fans at least, is the roster of playable superstars. And Pocket-lint is very excited that Brock Lesner (who ended up in the UFC) makes a return alongside favourites like The Rock and Sheamus (he's a Liverpool fan, dont'cha know).

Do you have any other suggestions of games you'd recommend that we haven't included? If so, let us know in the comments below...