Holiday Gift Guide 2011: Xbox 360
Own an Xbox 360? Know someone who does, or perhaps doesn’t but really wants to? Then look no further, because Gadget Review has you completely covered with Microsoft’s game console and all the exclusive titles you’ll need from this year’s lineup. To sweeten the guide, we’ve even included a handful of accessories that will make for great gifts this holiday for any Xbox 360 owner. Or for that good friend who hasn’t quite made the jump yet.
Xbox 360 Limited Edition Call of Duty:
Modern Warfare 3 Console
It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is already the biggest game this year, and every one of your friends is playing it. Up the ante with the full MW3 Xbox 360, which features a 320GB hard drive, two custom-painted new (with the improved D-pad) wireless controllers, and of course the game. The stunning paint job worked wonders for the photoshoot, and it looks just as good in real life. Whether it’s for yourself or a friend, a big hard drive and an awesome-looking Xbox is the way to go. This bundle does not disappoint.
Xbox 360 Media Remote
The original Xbox 360 media remote was big, bulky, and matched the white and green color scheme of the original Xbox 360 design. So with the Xbox 360 Slim, which comes in a standard glossy black, comes a sleek, elegant and new media remote. Able to turn on any Xbox 360 without the need to sync, the Media Remote con completely control the Xbox 360 for navigating menus, controlling media playback, and taking over your TV as a universal remote. For that last feature alone, the Media Remote is great at a low price of $19.99. Add onto that all the streaming media you can get through the Xbox 360 like Hulu Plus and ESPN, and the Media Remote is a must-have for the family room Xbox 360.
Mad Catz MLG Arcade Fightstick: Tournament Edition
When it comes to fighting games, you don’t want to rely on just a gamepad, especially when the fight turns serious. You want a fightstick, a full-on arcade-style eight button+joystick setup that’s built to last. Mad Catz has had a few great ones over the past few years, and the MLG Arcade Fightstick: Tournament Edition is no joke. Full-size, full-weight, and full-power, the MLG fightstick is built with Sanwa buttons and joystick to give it that real arcade-machine feeling, that can handle any pounding from hundreds or thousands of people. So bang on this bad boy all you want, it’s made to last.
Xbox 360 Wireless Headset w/Bluetooth
Wireless headsets for the Xbox 360 are great, but they only work with the Xbox, nothing else. For users who only need the one, that’s great, but if you’re looking for a multi-purpose headset, or just want to use one for your gaming and telephony needs, the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset w/Bluetooth has you covered. With the flick of a switch it toggles between Bluetooth and Xbox 360 communication. This on-the-ear headset is comfortable to wear and works very well with both the game console and mobile phones, and it’s been a strange pleasure to use it for both. It’s for a niche customer base, and a solid piece of hardware that makes a great stocking-stuffer.
Kinect Sensor + Nyko Zoom
Kinect is quickly becoming the ultimate living-room experience, whether it’s for gaming or for shouting at your Xbox to change the channel or pause the movie. Kinect is changing the way we interact with our media, and this holiday it’s one thing no Xbox 360 owner should want to miss.
And for anyone who already has Kinect knows how frustrating it can be to use it in a small-ish room. Kinect is built for the family room, larger spaces with plenty of distance between the couch and the TV. But, like many of you, I don’t have such a family room. My media center is a rectangular-shaped box with a round-abound couch, a coffee table and 3-5 feet of space to walk. Kinect needs 8-10 between you and the TV.
Not with the Nyko Zoom. The Zoom is a simple set of lenses that pops over the Kinect to make the cameras see objects closer than they actually are, almost halving the required distance from the Kinect. It’s especially great for individual players because their space of play will suddenly be much closer to the TV, be much more defines, and helps cut those rare instances where the Kinect doesn’t read your movements properly in half. Kinect will change the way you use your Xbox, and Nyko’s Zoom will help make that change, specifically for gaming in more confined spaces, a much more pleasant reality.
Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel
Okay, so it’s a wireless racing wheel. It seems like a joke, and perhaps is when compared to simulation-grade wheels from the likes of Logitech and Thrustmaster. But this racing wheel has one thing those wheels don’t: it’s always fun. Playing with the Wireless Speed Wheel is a constant struggle of holding the wheel upright, timing your turns and not taking the race too seriously. Sure, you can play Forza Motorsport 4 with it, or arcade racers like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. But if you pull out this wheel when playing with friends, it becomes a ton of fun.
Mad Catz Gears of War 3 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound Headset
Even if you aren’t a fan of Gears of War, the 7.1 Surround Sound Headset is a great sounding surround headset. It sounds good, has a convenient one-cable solution, is USB powered and works on the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Besides for the fact that it’s just a plain good headset, Gears fans will love the light-up skull earcans.
Xbox 360 Exclusive Games
Gears of War 3
It promised to be one of the biggest action titles of the year, and developer Epic Games pulled through on that promise. Gears of War 3 is an amicable conclusion to the Xbox 360 sci-fi saga, one that includes a fun, sordid campaign and several excellent multiplayer modes that continue to excite even months later. You don’t want to pass on this.
Forza Motorsport 4
Forza Motorsport 3 was huge, with over 400 cars and a disc just to install a ton of content. Forza 4 does all of that and more, with better photorealistic graphics, more cars and tracks, Kinect functionality, and the same great racing. If there’s a racing game to get this holiday, it’s Forza 4.
Dance Central 2
The original Dance Central was revolutionary; it took the dancing games we all wanted to enjoy on the Wii and made dancing in front of a TV fun. Whether it’s to work out, to learn some dance moves, or to make a fool of yourself at a party, Dance Central 2 ups the ante with two-players dancing side-by-side and a slew of new songs to get jiggy with. I wouldn’t call it kid-friendly; most of the tracks are fairly explicit (no bad words, but there is plenty of questionable content), though you’re likely to hear them on the radio nonetheless. Games like Dance Central are the reason to own a Kinect.
The game that brought the Xbox into the limelight returns, completely revamped with new HD graphics, online coop, and new game modes available in last year’s Halo: Reach. It may not look quite right to play the old classic with such updated graphics (I myself just love the old-school blocky textures), and the game isn’t an exact duplicate. Grizzled ancients will have new secrets to hunt and unlock while younger gamers who missed the original can give the game that started it all a serious go. For $40 it’s a great buy, even if you own the original Halo: Combat Evolved like I do because of the improved resolution and the chance to play it over Xbox Live.
Great Multi-Console Games
Batman: Arkham City
The return of the Dark Knight this decade has just been astounding. First two (and soon a third) film, then an amazing game, and now a kickass sequel. Batman: Arkham City is not just a romp around a fine prison; it’s a full-scale town to silently stalk through. Arkham City is a definite best-buy for any player, not only because the game is just so fun, but because many gamers missed it in the flood of holiday games. Don’t let this one pass you by.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
It’s big. Everyone wants it. It’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. In fact, if you don’t already have it, the only question is why not? We loved it, all your friends are playing it, and unless you’re stuck in Skyrim (see below), there’s no reason Modern Warfare 3 shouldn’t be in your game collection.
As good and bad as some games are, few are as jam-packed with excellent content and top-of-the-line features as Rage. It’s got a lot of holes to plug, and a lot of minor gripes that will annoy. But I guarantee that it‘s not only an excellent first person shooter, but that it really pushes the bounds of what it means to be a shooter. Rage may not be the greatest game to come out this year, but it will certainly open your eyes to the possibilities of future games, and be exciting the whole while. Just don’t forget to save often.
The best puzzle game this year, period. It’s bigger, smarter, and has a deeper story than the original, plus room for two players with double the portal action. Coop alone makes Portal 2 a great buy. Free future updates only guarantee that you’ll want to keep it.
Modern Warfare 3 may own the multiplayer Rambo-style of gaming, but Battlefield 3 is for the team-players, the ones who will grab their friends for an hour-long bout against an equally intelligent group for serious, vehicle-filled combat. Battlefield is for console strategists. Feel free to run and gun, but unless that’s your specialty, your team can definitely use another great member of the crew. Be it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
As a sleeper hit, Human Revolution isn’t quite the game that the original Deus Ex was, but that doesn’t take away from the game any. It pits players in the same neo-techno future, with body augmentations, incredible combat maneuvers, and multiple ways to play the game, including stealth, engineering, and soldier. It’s one game that’s easy to miss, but don’t. There is so much to do in the big city, it’s like a miniature RPG.
Rayman: Origins is one of those really great games that everyone in the family can enjoy. The simple platforming is complex enough to remain entertaining for hours on end, yet with instant cooperative play with up to four players on a home console, it’s always a fun time with everyone racing and slapping each other all the way to the finish. If there’s one way to spend the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Christmas, or any family time together when you’re snowed/rained in, Rayman: Origins is it.
Beware: this is for masochists only! Dark Souls, the sequel to Demons Souls, is an RPG with a difficulty curve that will either make you break your controller in frustration or feel right at home with the sheer insanity of this unforgiving game. If that sounds like the perfect gift for someone, either because they’d love it or end up breaking their game console in frustration, then this is a must-buy.
Saint’s Row: The Third
Saint’s Row: The Third is not what you’d expect from a massive sandbox game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto. It’s goofy, over the top in every way, and rombunctiously fun. So much so that I had to make up a word to describe it, because this game is insane in just about every way. That’s not to say you won’t love it…just keep it out of reach from the kids.
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Assassin’s Creed is one of the few game franchises where every game may feel oh-so-similar to the last, but even then the games are still so damn fun it’s impossible to put down. All of the Assassin’s Creed titles have just been incredible, even though Shawn and I may disagree on just how good. But there’s one thing we both agree on: these games are a blast to play. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations doesn’t quite take the franchise to the next level, still following Ezio Auditore from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but it further unfolds the tale, both past and present, of the everlong struggle between the Assassin’s and Knights Templar. A blockbuster hit you won’t want to miss.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is the one game you’ve probably seen not only a handful of ads in larger cities, but new internet meme’s popping up daily about. In fact, you don’t have to go far to learn what Skyrim is, which is one of the biggest, most incredible RPGs to come out this year. Our own Shawn Kline loved it. A definite must have, but be warned: you probably won’t be seeing much of whomever you give it to. That may make it a great, or terrible, gift idea.
Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection
There are few games that stand the test of time. Metal Gear Solid isn’t just one game, but an entire series that does exactly that. That’s why the game’s creator Hideo Kojima keeps making new ones even after consistently saying he’s done. That’s why years later people talk about the incredible experience they had in Snake Eater, or how they once ate Alligator meat in the game. Sure, it’s zany and over the top, but putting the Metal Gear Solid 2, 3, and Peace Walker in one bundle, in HD, is just another reason to play it, or to buy it for the new generation that didn’t grow up with METAL GEEEEEEAR!