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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Xbox 360 fulfills gaming promise
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is finally showing its true colours
The Xbox 360 has had the next-generation market to itself for almost 12 months and as its competitors gear up for launch, the machine is now delivering on its promise of high definition gaming.

The first year of Xbox 360 has given gamers a real mix of titles - from the mediocre Fifa Road to World Cup and average efforts such as Perfect Dark Zero to impressive games such as Oblivion.

It always takes developers some time before they really get to grips with new hardware and two recently released titles highlight this truth - Dead Rising and Test Drive Unlimited do more than just add visual gloss to a next-generation game, they are transforming the notion of gaming itself.

DEAD RISING

Dead Rising takes a giant chainsaw to the well-trodden zombie genre and re-fashions a sparkling game that has become a true showcase of the Xbox 360.


The set-up is familiar - an innocent finds himself in the midst of zombie-controlled territory, in this case a shopping mall lifted straight out of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

From the outset the game's ability to throw scores and scores of zombies onto the screen at the same time marks Dead Rising as next generation.

No longer is it a matter of tackling one or two zombies per room, Dead Rising creates a sea of the undead which you must face armed with a variety of weapons from shovel to shotgun.

You must develop your character by gaining prestige points - initially these are through taking photographs of zombies. The more gory and horrific the photo, the more points you earn.

Not for nothing is this game rated an 18.

There are plenty of missions to choose from, including rescuing survivors and dealing with the odd human psychopath roaming the mall.

It is not far from a mix of Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil with a combinatoin of freedom and intense action.

The game's failing is its save system; there is just one slot and if you save at a point when there is no time left to finish a mission or you don't have the weapons to defeat some of the nastier encounters, then you must start all over again.

It's almost as frustrating as having a zombie chew on your arm.

TEST DRIVE UNLIMITED

Test Drive takes place on a virtual Hawaii
Test Drive takes place on a virtual Hawaii

Test Drive is one of those franchises that conjure up fond memories of playing on an old Commodore 64 or Amiga.

Test Drive Unlimited is a return to form for the game, offering one of the most original driving experiences yet developed.

All the action takes place on Hawaii, where swathes of the island have been mapped out road by road for you to explore.

You can tour the island, take part in races against computer-controlled opposition, buy and sell cars, take on a variety of tasks and simply enjoy the thrill of the virtual wind in your hair.

All the games come with a high-definition sheen and the driving mechanics are just on the right side of realistic - i.e. they are challenging but fun.

But the game really shines when you take it online. Once you've chosen a car and passed your basic driving test you can drive around a virtual Hawaii populated with real drivers.

If you pass a fellow driver you can flash your headlights as a challenge and then race against them across the island.

The scale of the mapped Hawaii is staggering and there are roads it could take weeks and weeks to find before you go cruising over the tarmac.

A handy GPS device lets you know the locations of races and challenges and in an aid to efficiency you can warp straight there, rather than having to drive manually.

Like many other racing games I found the standard of racing to be really high and with my paltry beginner's car - an Audi TT - I found it impossible to race against owners of McLarens or Ferraris.

The range of races and "tracks" is impressive and Test Drive is one of the first games to truly blend the offline and online worlds - if only adventure games were like this.






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