Opinion Piece

Looking Back At Ten Years Of Xbox 360 Memories

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Today is officially the Xbox 360’s tenth anniversary, as hard as that is to believe, although here in the UK it didn’t actually arrive until December 2nd and I didn’t pick one up for about another year, but that’s just technicalities. Its been a hell of a ten years and while the console now stays relatively unused at the bottom of my little entertainment center it still gets fired up from time to time to play some Trials Evolution or even Skate with friends. But its fading away as less games come out for it. With an Xbox One and PC I’ve got little reason to pick up an Xbox 360 game these days, especially as I’ve fortunate enough to play almost every title I’ve ever been interested in for that platform. The day is going to come soon when the Xbox 360 fades into nothingness.

But it is not this day.

I still remember buying my Xbox 360. At the time of the console’s launch I would have just turned fourteen years old, and I had a reasonable library of Playstation 2 games, having prior owned the original Playstation and a Sega MegaDrive before that. But I didn’t get an Xbox 360 at launch. In fact it would be about a year later when the price had dropped that I could finally seriously consider moving to the next-generation of console, and the game that really sold me on abandoning my former Sony allegiance and siding with Microsoft wasn’t Halo 3, but rather Gears of War, the title that would make Epic a household name among gamers.

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I spent a lot of time trying to choose which console to get next, because to afford either of them I was going to have to sell my PS2 and entire library of games. The PS3’s higher price point was a major blow against it because even selling my existing games and console was still going to leave me quite a bit short and money was hard to come by. The Xbox 360 was the cheaper machine, and then Gears of War happened. I remember watching videos on the Internet of it, and then religiously reading through Gamesmaster’s review which spanned something like six pages, showing off how amazing it looked, how well it played and praising the multiplayer. To my eyes it was something special, something amazing. It truly was the next-gen.

So I sold my PS2, controllers and games for an amount of money I can’t recall, and then basically crashed through the doors of Argos to get an Xbox 360 and a copy of Gears of War. Ultimately, of course, the Xbox 360 would wind up being the console that brought me into writing about games and the incredibly fortunate position I’m in today where I get to play such a wide variety of games, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I got the hefty box back home and plugged it into my measly TV with the aid of my sister and booted up Gears of War. My eyeballs melted. The graphical leap from my PS2 to the Xbox 360 was nothing short of humongous. The visual fidelity was astounding, the textures were fantastic, the effects were brilliant and the set piece moments were breathtaking. I remembering with incredible detail the opening levels, and my own wide-eyed exuberance as I gazed lovingly at the lavishly detailed world Epic had crafted for Delta to shoot their way through . I’d always been a gamer, but I think playing Gears of War for the first time and experiencing that huge shift was when everything coalesced for me, the moment when I realized gaming would probably always be a part of my life in one form or another.

I played the  crap out of Gears of War, immersing myself into its action-horror atmosphere, the very same atmosphere that would sadly be lost in its two sequels which favored even more bombast. I remember how smooth the cover system was, and how well that fed into the gunplay. I adored the enemy design, the combat and how foes would move around the battlefield, trying to flank the player. I loved the hokey, cheesy storyline and the overly macho space marines who made up Delta squad. At that point my console wasn’t hooked up to the net or anything because Xbox Live Gold just wasn’t an option. Multiplayer for me wouldn’t actually become a reality on Xbox 360 until Gears of War 2 came out, which I remember queuing for in order to snatch up the special edition which still sits on my shelf to this day, alongside my Gears of War 3 ultimate edition. As you can see, flawed or not the Gears series has been special to me. Multiplayer was a hell of an eye-opener as well, and needless to say I got kicked around quite a bit for my first few matches until I could make the leap from a singleplayer style of play to the more frantic multiplayer. Since then, though I’ve had an Xbox Live Gold subscription and many of my fondest memories have spawned from epic multiplayer moments when teams collide, or just whens something crazy happens to me and my friends.

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But back on track. Not long after getting Gears of War I picked up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, because even I couldn’t play one game that much without getting a bit fed up and because Oblivion had been out long enough to see huge price drops. Surprisingly I struggled with it at first, clearly by being a douchebag because I didn’t even make it out of the sewers before switching back to the bombastic Gears of War. I didn’t touch Oblivion for a few days, but when I finally did my life changed. Again. I made it out of the sewers and emerged into a stunning open-world filled with possibilities and color, where every hill hid a secret behind it. Needless to say my first course of action was wandering off and accosting a soldier for his horse and armor, a fight I unsurprisingly lost horribly. Lesson learned I instead become a noble, honest adventurer who nobly and honestly stole absolutely everything that was not nailed down, unless the nails were worth a few coins in which case I’d expend the effort to take those with me, too. I still own my original copy of Oblivion, into which I sunk a few hundred hours, as verified by multiple saves with different characters. I actually eventually went out and bought a hard-drive solely so I could also buy the official expansion disc which contained the Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine, both of which added a lot more hours to my total. To this day Oblivion remains one of my most cherished games. Even though its sequel Skyrim is generally the better title, its bleak world can’t quite trump Oblivion’s high-fantasy stylings in myn mind.

From there memory becomes a tad fuzzier. I can’t remember what the third game I got was, although it may have been Project Gotham Racing 3. Along the way I acquired Halo 3 and didn’t enjoy it very much – the gameplay just didn’t click with me at the time, but a few years later I’d return to it and blitz through the entire campaign, appreciating the gunplay a lot more, plus when I returned I finally had my console hooked up to the Internet and a Gold subscription, and spent many happy hours playing with friends. I say playing with. More like goofing around with, really. Our teams probably hated us, although to be fair when we actually concentrated we were usually quite good.

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As I say everything becomes a bit blurrier here, but suffice to say I acquired a pretty big library of games over the years, fell in love with Mass Effect, became second-in-command of a 70+ person clan and eventually wound up writing about games, something which occured without any particular eureka moment. Along the way there were countless games that brought pleasure to me, far too many to actually name. I became an outlaw in Red Dead Redemption, became addicted to arcade-racer Pure, explored galaxies in the Mass Effect trilogy, had my mind expanded by the wonders of the BioShock games and shot more Covanent in four different Halo titles. I’ve played countless Lego games, numerous Call of Dutys, quite a few Assassin’s Creeds, four Saints Row titles and so, so many more games that deserved better than they got, like the brilliant Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Mirror’s Edge, Binary Domain, Sleeping Dogs, Spec Ops the Line, Pure, R.U.S.E., Darksiders II and dozens more.

From them come a lot of memories that have stuck with me. Seeing Gears of War in action for the first time, as we’ve already talked about. Being with Marcus Fenix as he sat down on the beach and dealt with everything he’d put aside during the long war with the Locust. I’ve finished the fight with the Master Chief, only to pick up a rifle and go right back into it with Halo 4.  Watching the Normandy explode in Mass Effect 2, leaving me feeling like I’d lost a friend. Losing a friend in Gears of War 3. Coming out of the sewers in Oblivion for the first time to see a world unfolding before me. Battling a dragon for the first time in Skyrim. Exploring the depths of Bioshock’s underwater world, and the skies of Bioshock Infinite. Making my last stand with John Marston. Leaping over buildings in Crackdown. Becoming Batman and battling the Joker courtesy of Arkham Asylum, one of my favorite games of all time. Causing absurd carnage in Just Cause 2. Barreling a Warthog across Vallhalla before crashing into the enemy base, going on a killing spree and making a quick escape.  There’s too many to even count, and I cherish them all.

In contrast the Xbox One is struggling to form that same bond with me. I’ve owned it for two years now, and yet it’s not been used very much. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had fun times with it; we’ve gone out to fancy restaurants and played Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate or blown up a lot of Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order, which, by the way, was kind of awesome. We’ve joyously summoned Titans to crush the opposition, and yet the memories aren’t the same, with the exception of one game I’m away to review; Star Wars Battlefront. It’s unfair, though, as nostalgia tints my view of the Xbox 360, and we were together for a very long time.
All of this, of course, isn’t even to touch upon the impact the Xbox 360 had on the rest of world. It brought a sleek interface that was easy to navigate and helped bring multiplayer to absolutely everyone in an easy fashion. It introduced Achievements, and then reinvigorated itself with apps that allowed users to stream videos and live TV, turning the box into an entertainment hub for everyone. And then there was the controller, which was just outstanding, combining wonderful comfort with triggers that felt perfect for racing games and shooters. Sony is still arguably the strong of the two console makers this generation, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that doesn’t hold the Xbox 360 as the dominant force in the last ten years.

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It remains impressive that considering the lackluster specs of the Xbox 360 by today’s standards there are still games coming out for it that look pretty damn good, despite a meager 512mb of Ram, a lowly CPU and weak GPU that can’t even hold a candle to the Xbox One’s raw power. Games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, which look amazing on the new consoles, still run on the 360 and still look good. What kind of sorcery is that? It’s hard not to be impressed by what developers are still managing to do with it.

of course we can’t ignore the problems that the Xbox 360 has had over its ten year reign, the most infamous of which was of course the Red Ring of Death, a deadly issue that struck a lot of people, myself included.

With the Xbox One finally getting backwards comparability it would seem that the Xbox 360s days are numbered, but the limited list of 360 games that currently be played on the 360 and the tiny price at which you can grab an Xbox 360 mean it still has life in it yet. There are still a lot of people out there enjoying last-gen games who are perfectly willing to wait to make that leap over the new consoles. And who can blame them? Right now the catalog for both the Xbox One and PS4 is good, but hardly impressive and the graphical upgrade from last-gen to this gen isn’t as much of a shocking, eye-bulging gulf as it was when leaping from PS2 or Xbox to PS3 or Xbox 360. Considering the extensive catalog of fantastic titles available for the Xbox 360, there’s still a lot of quality gaming to enjoy.

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But moving away from that and my talk of memories, the Xbox 360 has become an integral part of my life because of how it helped me through so much of it. As readers of this site may already know I have Cystic Fibrosis, a degenerative disease that causes a number of different problems, number one of which is a mucus build up that affects things like breathing. Needless to say, it’s a bit of a crappy disease and people with it don’t have the longest life estimates. But I’m lucky. I’ve got a mild case of it, and through quality living I’ve maintained my health so that, with luck, I’ll thrash the average estimated lifespans of people with CF by quite a bit, so I don’t have much to complain about. Humans, though, are selfish beings and the Xbox 360 has helped me through a lot of difficult times where my problems have gotten the better of me. Its helped me through intravenous drips that delivered medication which felt like it was burning my arms from the inside. Its helped me when I’ve been angry because my health has let me down again, giving me the chance to fire up something like Mortal Kombat X and pummel the hell out of Scorpion. Its helped me when I’ve come home angry because I couldn’t keep up with a friend’s walking speed. Its helped me when I’ve caught a cold that would barely annoy most people but floors me for a week. Its taken my mind of what might happen in the future, and things that have happened in the past. Its introduced me to fantastic people, and given me this, this very website. Its given me writing. Its given me the chance to work with publishers and developers and play all sorts of cool games. Its given me you guys.

Thank you.

Thank you, guys.

Thank you Xbox 360, for ten glorious years.

Thank you.

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