Some will be happy to hear that in this week's list there will be no Gears of War, no Halo's, no Call of Duty's and no Dark Souls. There will be no 2's, 3's, XIIVVI's, X-2's or titles with colons in them. This week we will be looking at those games that were the one-hit wonders of gaming during the previous generation on the Xbox 360; the games that stood out and yet stood alone, leaving behind fond memories, warm feelings, and faint hopes for future reincarnations. There are games that were completed in a single shot, requiring no sequel, leaving the gamer with a satisfied feeling of contentment and closure. On the flip side, there are also those games that have left us aching for more, desperate to revisit certain characters and locations, leaving us with the feeling that was unfinished business in the particular course of a title, and with issues still unresolved, just begging for a sequel.
As a sidenote, there were a number of games I really wanted to include, but my conscience wouldn't allow to bend the rules; honorable un-mentions thus. Red Dead Redemption Achievements, a stunning game and a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, but so far ahead of its predecessor in so many ways, I wanted to consider it a separate title. A similar story for Deus Ex: Human Revolution Achievements. I desperately wanted to include Bayonetta Achievements too, but with the sequel set to appear on another platform. Finally, Alan Wake Achievements was never treated to a "proper" sequel, but the XBLA release of Alan Wake's American Nightmare Achievements disqualifies it on a technicality. All of these games deserve passing mentions, but now let's move on to the real list.
Bully: Scholarship Edition Achievements
Bully originally came out on the PS2 back in 2006 and was treated to an updated and extended Xbox 360 release only a couple of years later. The protagonist is a rebellious teenager named Jimmy Hopkins who has been sent to a boarding school which becomes the central location in the game. To say that the title was GTA for a teenage audience might be over-simplifying slightly, but it in essence the title did contain many of the same gameplay elements including a semi-open world, mini-games to build up the character, vehicles, weapons, and the concept of being busted and blowing the mission. The game was a success for Rockstar and is considered one of their better games, but unfortunately to date, the game remains as a one-off, despite the feeling that there is more room for high-school mischief.
5: Vanquish Achievements
Experienced in creating crazily over-the-top, frenzied, hack-and-slash titles, Platinum Games managed to capture all that experience, mix it in with Japanese style sci-fi anime, and come up with the equally crazy, over-the-top, adrenaline-filled, third-person shooter, Vanquish. The inevitable comparison with such a title, would be with the Gears of War franchise, but Vanquish was more like Gears on speed; it never let the player relax for a second as it rushed through absolutely chaotic and frenzied battles at breakneck speed. Highly acclaimed and regarded as one of the best games in the genre, for some reason Sega and Platinum never went back to the title or tried to establish it as a franchise. A real shame; Vanquish is unique, there is simply nothing like it or anything that comes even close.
4: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Achievements
Enslaved was another one of those wonderful titles that seemed to come from nowhere and yet produced a stunning game experience. In simple terms it was a third-person action-platformer set in a post-apocalyptic world. The player takes on the role of Monkey and is charged with protecting and guiding the game's other protagonist, Trip. It is all done brilliantly in a world that is so vibrantly and vividly imagined that you forget or overlook that the game is effectively one long escort mission. The story, writing and dialog, and gameplay all come together to make a unique and memorable experience which has not been matched. There was always enough scope and possibility for a sequel, but unfortunately it never materialized. The title, however, remains a shining example of a standalone game.
3: Sleeping Dogs Achievements
Initially, Sleeping Dogs started off as a single title, then became part of the True Crime franchise before being cancelled, and finally was released as an original standalone game. Usually such development wrangles would be catastrophic for a title, but Sleeping Dogs came through it, and became a massive hit in its own right. Set it in Hong Kong, the player takes on the role of an undercover cop, Wei Shen, who is tasked with infiltrating one of the top Triad gangs and bring them to justice. As the story progresses, the player seems to go deeper undercover and becomes more involved with the Triad society which leads to the point where the player is left wondering where exactly the character's allegiance really lies, and to which side of his moral compass he will eventually turn. Gameplay in the semi-open world features gunfights and car chases, but the key element is the free flow martial arts combat similar to that found in the Batman: Arkham franchise. Ultimately, the intriguing and cleverly-written story reaches its climax, and whilst it has a satisfying conclusion, you can't help but feel there is more to explore in the Hong Kong underworld.
2: Dishonored Achievements
To be honest, I've always held Dishonored in the same high esteem as the first BioShock; an original IP, coming out of nowhere, brilliantly imagined and stunningly brought to life in a highly stylized work of gaming art. Visiting the various locales in the fictional city of Dunwall was as memorable as that first venture into Rapture.
Taking on the role of Corvo, the royal bodyguard who has been framed for the assassination of the Empress he was employed to protect, the player strives to clear his name, and return the kidnapped heir to the her rightful place on the throne. The player is given almost total freedom in deciding how they want to approach the game. Stealth, supernatural powers, and all out combat are the choices available, and combining them together empowers the player all the more. Highly acclaimed in all areas and clearly deserving of a sequel, there are rumors that another trip to Dunwall is being lined up, but the lack of official confirmation keeps it a standalone title for now.
1: L.A. Noire Achievements
A gem of a title which still divides opinions with some seeing the game as little more than a glorified point-and-click adventure and others lauding the use of facial animations as a key element in the gameplay. The game takes the player to Los Angeles, a couple of years after WWII, playing the role of Cole Phelps, an officer in the L.A. Police Department. Whilst the game attempts to capture 1940's L.A. in an authentic semi-open world (and does so quite magnificantly), it's the story and the missions that steal the show. The crimes being solved are dripping with the noire atmosphere of the period and hint towards some of the more famous and infamous crimes of the time. The underlying thread in the main storyline is the rise and eventual fall of Phelps as the seedy, grimy underworld of L.A. crime slowly taints his character. The player is helpless to prevent this insidious corruption, and can only look on as a helpless spectator as Phelps falls prey to the world around him. At the climax of the game, there is one final moment of atonement, and a chance of redemption, but it's high price to pay. Whilst there could not be a direct sequel, there is room and scope for a spiritual successor. Sadly, there is nothing to report and this particular case file is closed.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!