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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 08:56 GMT
Microsoft banks on Xbox 360 games
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Microsoft is counting on three of its own games to attract gamers to the Xbox 360. But how do they live up to the expectations of next generation games?


Screenshot of Perfect Dark Zero
Joanna Dark can take cover before taking a shot at enemies
Joanna Dark is Microsoft's secret weapon in the battle to capture the hearts and wallets of gamers.

She is the heroine of Perfect Dark Zero, one of the new games by British developers Rare for the Xbox 360.

Joanna first appeared in a game for Nintendo's N64 five years ago, but with Rare in Microsoft hands, her future lies with the Xbox. Perfect Dark Zero is one of the big-hitters of the Xbox 360 launch line-up, offering a first-person shooter which provides everything you could want in such a game.

There are 14 missions set in exotic locales, with varying degrees of complexity, though at times the puzzles are so obvious that they almost feel like a chore.

Graphically, the game looks gorgeous, with heavy undertones of Japanese anime with an American twist. The sound, too, is superb, even if at times the incidental music veers towards the cheesy end of the spectrum.

Online options

Screenshot of Perfect Dark Zero
Graphics - 9
Sound - 9
Gameplay - 8
Enduring appeal - 8
Overall - 8
The storyline takes second place to the action, and with an extensive array of weapons to chose from, there are enough bullets flying to satisfy the most demanding action addict.

But, and this is a big but, Perfect Dark Zero is not the Halo of the Xbox 360. The single-player mode at easy level is rather short.

There is some replay value in going back over the missions at a harder level, as these feature new assignments and an opportunity to explore some of the secondary functions of the weapons.

Online, the game offers plenty of choice. There is a wide range of multi-player options, including playing missions in a co-op mode with a friend over the internet.

This is likely to keep gamers coming back to what is one of the best first-person shooters available for any console, though it still pales against PC blockbusters like Half-Life 2.


Screenshot of Project Gotham Racing 3
The look and feel from behind the steering wheel is startling
Hardcore racing fans are in for a treat with the latest incarnation of Microsoft's motorsport title, Project Gotham Racing 3, for the Xbox 360.

The game shines graphically on the new console, with gleaming cars and exquisitely-modelled race tracks. Petrolheads will love the attention to detail.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the option to race with the view from behind the wheel.

The sun shimmers off the windscreen as the car races down the track, with clouds overhead making fleeting glimpses before your eyes before disappearing in your wake.

Production values

The game offers a glimpse of the degree of realism possible thanks to the processing power of the Xbox 360.

Screenshot of Project Gotham Racing 3
Graphics - 9
Sound - 9
Gameplay - 8
Enduring appeal - 8
Overall - 8.5
With slick production values, the title oozes quality. But as a game, there is little to distinguish this version from earlier incarnations of the top-notch racing title.

Essentially it is all about testing your skills behind the wheel. There are some nice tweaks, such as being able to watch your friends' races online via Gotham TV and the ability to design thousands of race tracks.

At the end of the day, the game is exactly what fans have come to expect from the Project Gotham Racing franchise, albeit a highly polished game, with impeccable sound effects and a tonne of extras.

Out of all the Xbox 360 launch titles, it is the one that showcases the potential of Microsoft's new console.


Screenshot of Kameo
Angry trolls are a big feature of Kameo
Out of a range of shooting, racing and sports games for the Xbox 360 launch, Kameo: Elements of Power stands out as the family-friendly title.

It is another creation from the stable of Rare which was first destined for Nintendo's GameCube, before Microsoft took out its bulging wallet and splashed out on the British developers.

The game revolves around the story of a cute pixie-like character called Kameo and her search to retrieve the Elemental Warriors.

These are different creatures which Kameo can morph into and use their special powers to access areas of the game, solve puzzles and defeat enemies.

Players get a feel for the powers of some of these characters in the opening level of the game, which works as a tutorial. But Kameo loses them in this introductory level, hence her quest to rescue them.

In many ways, Kameo plays like a traditional platform adventure game set in rich 3D environments. It combines a touch of exploring, puzzle-solving and fighting which are unlikely to tax the regular gamer.

Dazzling colours

All too often, players are told what to do, rather than left to discover the way ahead for themselves. Even the fight scenes leave little to the imagination, with clear hints at how to defeat enemies.

Screenshot of Kameo
Graphics - 8
Sound - 8
Gameplay - 7
Enduring appeal - 6
Overall - 7
One of the most compelling parts of the game involves riding a horse through a massive battle for control of the Badlands area at the centre of the Kameo world.

There is little purpose to this interlude, even though with hundreds of trolls on screen, it shows what is possible with the processing power of the 360.

While the gameplay does not stand out as next gen, the look of the title certainly does.

The garish colours of Kameo's universe assault the senses. Everything here is vividly painted in what appears to be an effort to showcase the graphical prowess of the Xbox 360.

It may not be to everyone's liking, but no one can dispute the amount of detail in the anime-like world of Kameo.

However, not even all the colours of the rainbow in the most dazzling shades can make up for the lack of magical appeal at the heart of Kameo.

Xbox 360: How video games have evolved

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