Xbox: The best games since the original launch ... and the worst ones

Xbox: The best games since the original launch ... and the worst ones


On November 15, 2001, the first Xbox arrived in American stores several months earlier than in Europe and Japan, as was usually the case at the time. Twenty years later and within the twentieth anniversary celebrations, we return to take a look at the launch lineup of the first Microsoft console, with an overview of the best games and even the worst ones that arrived at the time along with the bizarre one. , but very advanced game machine.

To get a more complete idea of ​​what the Xbox launch was, we must also remember that the lineups were partially different in Japan and Europe: landing in these countries respectively three and four months later, the console could already count on some very interesting additions, such as Silent Hill 2 and Genma Onimusha on the Japanese market and Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, Jet Set Radio Future, Max Payne and Wreckless: The Yakuza Mission in Europe, strongly enriching the bookshelf. However, speaking here of the original launch on November 15, 2001, we will focus on the very first lineup, the American one. However, there are 19 games, 11 of which are exclusive, which denote a considerable effort on the part of Microsoft to try to provide a nice software support to the new console.

How did things go? Partly really great and partly decidedly worse, but let's start the overview by talking about the best games among those that accompanied the arrival of the Xbox.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved, a screenshot with Master Chief The very symbol of Xbox could only dominate the console's launch lineup. Destined to become a real video game icon, Halo: Combat Evolved represented something significant for the new machine and for the history of video games in general, demonstrating how first-person shooters could work best even on consoles. On the other hand, this is not just any FPS: Bungie had been working on the project for years and it had grown and enriched more and more to become an epic sci-fi adventure able to make the most of the advanced hardware of the console, staging a spectacular and also incredibly playable opera. In a short time, the Master Chief, the USNC soldiers and the Covenants would become a fixed presence in the common imagination of gamers, also transforming the way to play FPS on consoles.

Dead or Alive 3

Dead or Alive 3, a screenshot that demonstrates the game's advanced graphics Already the lineup of the first Xbox was starting to show signs of great interest in Japan from Microsoft, in what would later be a long story of unrequited love. The Japanese element at the time of the Xbox launch was represented by Dead or Alive 3, a new chapter in the fighting game series developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo, which carried on the general concept of the previous episode with a notable technological evolution. applied. At the time led by Tomonobu Itagaki, the project followed the designer's vision of wanting to exploit the most powerful hardware possible at the time, thus finding an ideal location in the new Xbox, for which it was developed exclusively, in a rather striking way for a Japanese team. The game was very well received by critics, remaining faithful to the gameplay of the series but transporting it into a real new technical generation.

Project Gotham Racing

Project Gotham Racing, an urban road in night from the Xbox game The racing game tradition at the launch of the new console, for Xbox, started with Project Gotham Racing, which later became a four-chapter series that has long been one of the symbols of Xbox, before being totally supplanted by Forza . Developed by the experts of Bizarre Creations, PGR was an excellent arcade racing game with spectacular graphics for the time, with the characteristic of reproducing in a remarkably realistic way some urban routes taken from real settings between Tokyo, London, New York and San Francisco. Precisely this insistence on racing on the city streets is one of its main peculiarities, in addition to a particular progression and rewards system for players based on "kudos": with this feature, the game introduced the possibility of obtaining points and awards in real time depending on the driving style and the results obtained in the race.

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, a game scene showing the new setting in 3D Despite deriving from a series that became famous on PlayStation, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee ended up being part of the Xbox exclusive launch lineup, only to arrive later in HD version on PS3 and other platforms. This is the first chapter in 3D of the Oddworld series, which shares the setting, some characters and situations in general with the previous ones but differs from it in terms of structure, presenting itself as a sort of action adventure in a three-dimensional world, while the former were basically 2D platform adventure. Initially developed for PS2, the title was then diverted to Xbox also to exploit the greater potential guaranteed by the hardware of the Microsoft console, with some variations applied. In the end, it turned out to be a major title in the Xbox lineup that didn't rely on big adventures otherwise.

Fuzion Frenzy

Fuzion Frenzy features several multiplayer mini-games Ok, it may seem a bit absurd to include Fusion Frenzy among the best games of the Xbox launch, but beyond the superficial impact that can be had with the game, at first glance not exactly a masterpiece, it must be said that it subsequently turned out to be a game very fun multiplayer, still fondly remembered by many of the first Xbox users. It was a sort of party game, totally devoted to multiplayer, consisting of a series of different game modes to be faced in company: in several respects, it could be seen as the forerunner of the game format from "Xbox Live Arcade" for like this one. it would come to be defined only a few years later and also for this reason it represents a title of some importance in the launch lineup of the first Microsoft console, as a peculiar vision of the videogame in a smaller-scale production.

Madden NFL 2002

Madden NFL 2002, a match in the Xbox game For us Italians it could be nothing more than "another of those Madden games", but for the prepared American public the chapter that celebrated the launch of the Xbox , or Madden NFL 2002, is still one of the best ever in the series. To certify it is an astonishing 90 by Metascore, demonstrating how the title was received with great enthusiasm at the time, making it practically the best-rated game among those in the launch lineup, after obviously His Majesty Halo. Beyond the various additions in terms of content and the obvious updates to rosters and licenses, the chapter released in 2001 represented one of the major evolutionary steps recorded by the series in technical terms, and the Xbox version was easily the best exponent. A great way to usher in a relationship that later proved to be very solid with EA sports, Madden NFL 2002 showed up on Xbox along with the good NASCAR Thunder 2002.

The worst games

A lineup of 19 games is an operation of considerable scale for a company that, before that time, had never dedicated itself to the console market. This has led to less attention to average quality and a tendency to quantity rather than quality, as a sort of show of strength by Microsoft, which intends to accompany Xbox with a lineup that especially cares to cover any user need. Wanting to offer something for every taste and ranging as much as possible between genres, in addition to some great games also emerged "pearls on the contrary", so to speak. So let's try to mention the worst surprises found on the shelves on that November 15th 2001.


Shrek, a close-up shot of the protagonist Perhaps one of the ugliest games of the generation, the first Shrek for Xbox it was definitely not a showdown on the part of the new Microsoft console, turning out to be quite terrible especially on the gameplay front. Graphically it was not so terrible, also considering a particular use of the graphic technique in deferred shading which gave a particularly cartoonish tone to the whole, but the whole structure set on the obsessive repetition of missions of the same type and practically emptied of any sense of challenge, of reasoned level design or narrative elements of some interest have led it to be one of the worst rated titles not only of the Xbox launch lineup but a bit of the entire period in question. The TDK Mediactive development team also tried to relaunch it with the "Extra Large" version, trying in every way to exploit the rich license, but without much improving the results, in terms of quality.

Arctic Thunder

Arctic Thunder, an image of a race in the ice Not the most terrible of games, to tell the truth, but Arctic Thunder is not exactly one of those titles that remain fixed to everlasting memory in the imagination of the players, let's say. It is a racing game based on snowmobiles, and the subject does not seem exactly the most solid, but at the time it was easy to launch into such projects, with arcade racing games that were still depopulated and also allowed rather daring digressions. To tell the truth, it was even part of a sort of series conceived by Midway, which with the various Thunders had the intention of proposing racing declined in different categories depending on the vehicles used. One of these, Hydro Thunder, also turned out particularly well, but the same cannot be said of Arctic Thunder, erased from memory even with the lack of inclusion in backwards compatibility.

Mad Dash Racing

Mad Dash Racing, the split-screen allows 4 to play on the same screen With a Metascore placed at 65 and also several positive reviews, Mad Dash Racing was anything but a disaster, but let's take the opportunity to talk about it and not we could still put it among the best games. In any case, we are faced with a somewhat controversial title as a welcome, considering that in any case a lot of people considered it insufficient at the time, but it is above all interesting looking at who its authors are: the game was developed by Crystal Dynamics, inaugurating not exactly in the the best way is the excellent combination between the British team and Xbox, which would have led to certainly more convincing results over the years. It is a racing game in which a varied cast of creatures challenge each other by running on foot, within various tracks: the most evident inspiration seems to be Sonic R, but also considering the fact that it is a launching game it closely resembles also the bizarre Tricelon Pen Pen for Sega Dreamcast.

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