THE 20 BEST Xbox 360 Games of 2012
One of the paradoxes of the games industry dictates that the nearer a console gets to the end of its life-cycle, the better the games for it.
By now, every developer worthy of the name has got to grips with programming for Microsoft's hugely successful Xbox 360 and, while speculation mounts that its successor may make its bow at the E3 Show in June, Xbox 360 owners can lick their lips at the prospect of a deliciously tasty line-up of games due out in 2012.
We've arranged the year's 20 best Xbox 360 titles in alphabetical order.
1. Assassin's Creed 3
The one thing we know for sure about the next instalment of Ubisoft's historical open-world action-adventure franchise is that it will come out on October 30 2012. But strong rumours suggest Assassin's Creed III will be set in the American Revolution, with a storyline centred on Desmond. Let's hope it receives a thorough freshening-up, after last year's Assassin's Creed: Revelations copped some flak for giving the impression it was going through the motions.
2. BioShock Infinite
The return of the great Ken Levine to the innovative, steampunk, plasmid-enhanced franchise has generate a palpable wave of anticipation - BioShock Infinite is, without a doubt, one of the year's most wanted. The action moves to 1912, and a city floating in the sky thanks to airships called Columbia. You play ex-Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, escorting a young woman called Elizabeth with fearsome powers which she must learn to harness.
3. Brothers In Arms: Furious 4
It's reboot time for Ubisoft's previously mega-realistic World War II franchise, this time with Gearbox, the hardest-working developer in the business, at the reins. Furious 4 will take a more cartoonish, larger-than-life approach, with you controlling one of four super-soldiers tracking the Fuhrer and fighting a secret Nazi army. Unsurprisingly, four-player co-op features prominently.
4. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
OK, it might not actually be called Black Ops 2 - but that would be the most logical nomenclature for this year's iteration of Activision's all-conquering first-person shooter, given that it's Treyarch's turn at the development controls. Frankly, the world might well stop turning if a year went by without a new CoD game. Let's hope it's even trippier than Black Ops - and that those zombies make a comeback.
5. Dirt: Showdown
Something of a departure - into arcade-racer territory - for Codemasters' rallying-meets-hooning game. Ken Block is back, helping to provide the opposition for bog-standard and figure-of-eight races, demolition derbies and hooning galore. Mad vehicles, such as pick-ups and ambulances, plus obstacles galore should ensure that Dirt: Showdown's proceedings turn out be pretty high-octane.
A new franchise from Bethesda, of Fallout and Elder Scrolls fame, is bound to feature highly on the wish-list of any gamer in the know. Developed by Arkane Studios, this first-person stealth-action effort takes place in a retro-futuristic city modelled on Victorian London called Dunwall, andDishonored's gameplay is all about the freedom to take whatever approach you choose (such as sneaking around undetectably by possessing rats).
7. Far Cry 3
A lush jungle setting beckons seductively for the third time - but the next version of Ubisoft's survival shooter looks set to have a much more over-the-top, in-your-face storyline than its predecessors. Although, thankfully, the game's free-form, open-world approach will be present and correct. Far Cry 3 looks fantastic, and promises to be by far the most sophisticated iteration of the franchise.
8. FIFA 13
This year's instalment of FIFA's hardy perennial football franchise hasn't yet received a public airing, but the all-conquering franchise has been on a major roll in recent years, firmly establishing itself as top dog, so we can't wait to get our mitts on it. You'll have to watch this space for news on new features and the like.
9. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
Ubisoft's stunningly realistic, squad-based shooter takes place in a gratifyingly diverse range of settings, including South America, Zambia and a Russian forest, and boasts the sort of ridiculously high-tech military gear we've come to expect, including a devastating (and deeply satisfying) sniper rifle whose bullets can home in on enemies and tiny, intel-collecting drones. Stealth missions and massive firefights mix up Future Soldier's gameplay, and you can expect co-op and multiplayer modes galore.
10. Grand Theft Auto V
Will the latest version of Rockstar's unfeasibly popular third-person action-adventure franchise arrive before the end of the year? The company isn't saying yet - but we reckon it will. All we know so far is that it will be set in Los Santos (GTA-speak for LA). You can bet that GTA V will hog the headlines at this year's E3 Show, and of course we'll keep you fully filled in when that happens.
11. Halo 4
It's all change for Microsoft's much-adored first-person shooter: Halo 4 will be the first version of the game made by someone other than Bungie - 343 Industries, to be specific. What we do know is that it takes place after the war against the Covenant, and will star good old Master Chief again.
12. Hitman: Absolution
At last: Io Interactive has stopped fannying around and gone back to doing what it does best: making stealth-em-ups featuring everyone's favourite barcoded baldy, Agent 47. Featuring a storyline that starts with Agent 47 assassinating his handler and best friend, and a new game mechanic called Instinct that helps you play in whatever style suits you, Hitman: Absolution looks set to be truly epic.
13. Kinect Star Wars
It may not have received glowing accolades for its gameplay when previewed, but Kinect Star Wars at least lets you channel your inner Jedi, with light-sabre battles, Pod races and, ahem, dancing battles. We're not sure what hardcore gamers will make of it, but expect it to be hyped and marketed to the max, and fans of all things George Lucas will lap it up.
14. Max Payne 3
The third outing for the world's most hard-bitten ex-cop marks something of a new dawn, with the mighty Rockstar Games taking over the reins from developer Remedy (with the latter's blessing). Which means we can expect even more grittiness, adult storylines and an impressive level of detail from Max Payne 3. Plus, classic mechanics like Bullet Time are present and correct. Not for the faint-hearted.
15. Medal Of Honor: Warfighter
The second, post-reboot instalment of the now-contemporary first-person military shooter will once again let you indulge your super-soldier fantasies as a number of so-called Tier 1 Operators - including the SAS. Medal Of Honor: Warfighter should look magnificent, as it uses DICE's Frostbite 2 engine, and this time around, its multiplayer side is being created by developer Danger Close, rather than DICE. Expect a monstrously intense evocation of modern warfare.
16. Prey 2
Prey 2 veers off in a completely different direction from its predecessor - out goes the walking up and down walls and ceilings, and in comes a futuristic, sci-fi, open world, with you at the helm of a bounty-hunter who has some amazing physical moves. Expect ground-breaking level design, a living, convincing world and a very meaty experience.
17. Prototype 2
Here's another sequel game which takes a different route than its predecessor. Set in a totalitarian future New York, you play Heller, a bad-ass heavily armed mutant with beast-claws for arms and a sense of rage fuelled by the murder of his family. Prototype 2 looks set to deliver a judicious mix of rich storyline and sandbox action - garnished by lashings of comic book-influenced violence. Yum.
18. Resident Evil 6
Not before time, Capcom's much-loved, genre-defining survival horror franchise prepares for its next big outing. Resident Evil 6 will take place in 2013, in a fictional Chinese city called Lanshiang. It takes its cue from versions 4 and 5, in that it will be more action-oriented. We know that Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy will feature, along with an as-yet unnamed new protagonist. And that the zombies will be able to run and even use weapons. Should be deliciously scary.
19. Ridge Racer Unbounded
It's Ridge Racer - but not as we know it. For Ridge Racer Unbounded, developer Bugbear has removed the emphasis on drifting and turned the cars into battering-rams: you can generate your own short-cuts by destroying bits of Shatter Bay, the US city in which it is set. If you enjoyed the likes of Burnout or Split/Second, it should be right up your street.
20. Risen 2: Dark Waters
If you like a good RPG, but aren't so keen on all the sub-Tolkien orcs, goblins et al that they feature, then Risen 2: Dark Waters demands your attention. It takes pirates in tropical islands as its subject matter, so you can expect adult dialogue, voodoo and lashings and lashings of grog. Publisher Deep Silver may not be the most fashionable outfit but, as Dead Island proved, it's a company that knows its RPGs.