Xbox 360 Reviews U-Z

Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2011)
Reviewed: 2014/5/17
Rating: Teen (violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, mild language)

screenshotThe original Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 (Capcom, 2011) was one of the most spectacular fighting games I've ever laid eyes on. Its vibrant comic book-style graphics, high-energy gameplay, and excellent cast of characters is a feast for the senses.

This Ultimate edition augments the fun with 12 new characters (!) including Doctor Strange, Firebrand, Ghost Rider, Frank West, Hawkeye, Nemesis T-Type, Iron Fist, Phoenix Wright, Nova, Strider Hiryu, Rocket Raccoon, and Virgil. The fighting action is entirely over-the-top as heroes and villains dart around while unleashing projectiles and air attacks quicker than the eye can see.

The battles are three-on-three, and you can call on your partners to deliver quick hits (as if more chaos was warranted). The game also has a wicked sense of humor, like the special attack where Frank West plows into his opponent(s) with a shopping cart! When Rocket Raccoon goes buck-wild on an opponent, the hilarity meter goes into overdrive.

Your player "license" keeps track of statistics, character usage, and arcade high score. As you play the game you'll unlock a steady stream of art, movies, bios, and other goodies. The unbridled chaos puts Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 at a lower tier than Street Fighter IV (Capcom, 2009) and Mortal Kombat (Warner Bros., 2011), but this Ultimate edition is still quite a spectacle. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Virtua Tennis 2009
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/7/3
Rating: Everyone


screenshotLike previous editions, Virtua Tennis 2009 delivers arcade-style gameplay with vibrant visuals and intuitive controls. This latest version doesn't really offer much new, but sticking with the tried-and-true formula isn't a bad idea. The action is fast and exciting. To hit the ball, you hold in the A button to "wind up" your shot while aiming using the thumbstick. Your player swings automatically, but you'll need to be in a good position to unleash a tenacious cross-court shot.

One knock against this game is how almost every hit is in-bounds - even awkward shots where you swing wildly. This artificially extends the volleys and reduces the challenge. Virtua Tennis 2009 benefits handsomely from its roster of actual pros which include both Williams sisters and hottie Maria Sharapova. Better yet, you can stage a "clash of the titans" match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. From a distance the players look fine, but once you get up close they look a little scary! The upbeat music is an appealing mix of guitar and synthesizer, and the crisp sound effects include the grunts of the players.

As a multiplayer game, Virtua Tennis 2009 is "A" material. Especially when playing doubles, you have to love the wild volleys and frantic saves that occur as four players scamper around the court. When a player moves out of position, an alert partner will usually bail them out. The single player "World Tour" experience is less compelling. Sure there's plenty of stuff to do, but it's slow to advance and the amount of loading is obnoxious. The mini-games include sinking pirate ships and shooting billiard balls, but would a retry option be asking too much?

Experienced players will find working their way through the early cupcake matches to be excruciating. I should also mention that this is a heck of a lot like Virtua Tennis 3 (Xbox 360, 2006). The player selection is nearly the same, and the basic gameplay is unchanged. The single player mode does employ a lower vantage point, but it's no better or worse that the default high overhead view. Additional on-line modes are now available for those interested in that kind of thing. Gamers in the market for a tennis title will love Virtua Tennis 2009, but long-time fans looking to elevate their game may be disappointed. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Virtua Tennis 3
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2006)
Reviewed: 2009/7/1
Rating: Everyone


screenshotThe original Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast, 2000) is a timeless classic. Easy to play and insanely addictive, it raised the bar for multi-player sports action. Unfortunately, when a game's that perfect, there's nowhere to go but down. As a result, subsequent editions of the game have received less enthusiastic receptions.

Virtua Tennis 3 is a solid title with smooth animation and entertaining mini-games, but the magic has faded a bit. In addition to applying topspin (the default), there's a lob and a slice that can be used to execute drop shots. The graphics are average but the animation is incredibly lifelike, and you'll occasionally witness a sensational move like a hit between the legs. The high-energy music is terrific, and sound effects include player grunting and shrieking.

The solo World Tour mode lets you develop a player and enter various tournaments. In the over-the-top mini-games you'll do stuff like aim for bulls-eyes or catch an avalanche of tumbling fruit. For my money though, nothing can beat knocking down bowling pins with your serve. I love that game. But while some mini-games are addictive, the excessive number of prompts and load screens water down the fun. Would a "retry" option be too much to ask for?

I was really digging the World Tour mode until the game informed me I had suffered from a fractured wrist, which instantly set my abilities back in several categories! What the hell?! The tournament mode lets you get right down to business against a series of opponents, but I really wish there was an option to save your progress between matches. There are 20 professional players to choose from.

The versus mode accommodates up to four players, and when teaming up with a friend to play doubles, the CPU opponents are tough as nails! Virtua Tennis 3 is the real deal, and you'll struggle to find a better realistic tennis game on the market. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Virtua Tennis 4
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (2011)
Reviewed: 2011/7/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotConsidering the sheer brilliance of the original Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast, 2000), it's amazing how its sequels have turned out to be so... boring! Virtua Tennis 4 looks like an arcade-style game with stylish graphics and great music, but it plays more like a bad simulation.

I find it amusing that "Better with Kinect" is printed across the front of the box. What an [expletive] joke! The erratic motion controls don't even measure up to the five-year-old Wii Sports tennis game. Just waving your arm is enough to hit the ball, but you have no bearing on the spin or direction of your shot. Since you can't adjust your player's position, matches turn into a series of boring volleys along the baseline. Only available in exhibition mode, it's painfully clear that the Kinect feature was tacked on at the last minute.

Using a normal controller lets you control the speed and spin of your shot by "winding up" before the ball arrives. It's a great scheme, but I found it difficult to hit the ball hard - even with power-hitters like Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer! And I couldn't perform a drop shot to save my life. The controls feature four different shot buttons, which is probably two too many.

The courts are tremendously detailed but the player models haven't improved much since the first Virtua Tennis. Even Maria Sharapova looks unattractive for Pete's sake! I do like how the game includes so many big names like Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic, and Venus Williams. The matches tend to be reasonable in length, but I wish there were a way to turn off the constant replay and player reaction animations. After a while you just start tapping buttons to skip that repetitive junk.

The World Tour mode gives the game substantial replay value with its "board game" layout and endless diverse challenges. Unfortunately there are more mini-games than actual tennis and they quickly wear out their welcome. The ones where you need to run around a court while stepping on switches or collecting eggs are especially annoying.

The arcade mode apparently keeps track of your high score, but there's no way to view it from the menus (despite a wealth of other player statistics available). Virtua Tennis 4 is not a terrible game, but it lacks excitement. Sega games used to be so much fun. What happened? © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Viva Pinata
Grade: C
Publisher: Microsoft (2006)
Reviewed: 2008/5/24
Rating: Everyone

screenshotViva Pinata is Microsoft's effort to reach the younger demographic, and it's not bad. Modeled somewhat after the Sim City games, the idea is to cultivate a small plot of land in order to attract a diverse assortment of cute creatures. These creatures are pinata versions of real animals, with names like Syrupent (snake), Sparrowmint (bird), Bunnycomb (rabbit), Mousemallow (mouse), and Squizzel (squirrel).

You explore your "garden" with a circular cursor, and there's always something to do. You'll clear away rocks and debris, purchase items, grow plants, construct habitats, and interact with the creatures. Once you've fulfilled the "romance" requirements of a certain species, they will begin to procreate. The imaginative pinata animations are crafted with care, and it's slightly heartbreaking when they die of sickness or are hunted down. Your garden tends to get a little cluttered over time, but new ground gradually becomes accessible. I really like the changing weather conditions, and it's neat how the time of day affects animal behavior. The worms and birds tend to get up early, and foxes and bats are active at night.

Viva Pinata's flower-shaped menus are structured logically enough, but the interface could be better. There are too many layers of menus, and too many prompts. Also, I couldn't determine the practical value of actions like "mailing" pinatas or assigning names to them. Helpful characters wearing Indian Doctor masks are gradually introduced to sell you goods, heal sick pinatas, or perform other services. These increase your options exponentially, but after a while it feels like the game is being crushed under its own weight.

Viva Pinata is rarely exciting, but it's constantly introducing new creatures and items. As long as you keep experimenting, you'll always see something new, and the possibilities are endless. But while I found the game engaging from the start, my interest waned over time. Despite my continued success, maintaining the garden has a lot of repetitive tasks that can feel like chores over time. I really wish I didn't have to direct pinatas towards their mates or food sources, and the maze-like minigames are tiresome. I can appreciate the style of the game and its ageless appeal, but Viva Pinata doesn't have that addictive quality needed to put a game like this over the top. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

WWE Legends of Wrestlemania
Grade: C+
Publisher: THQ (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/8/26
Rating: Teen (blood, language, use of alcohol, violence)


screenshotI've never been a huge wrestling fan, but I do fondly recall the "golden days of wrestling" of the 1980's, when the WWF was huge. Hulk Hogan even made the cover of Sports Illustrated! This game brings back all the true legends like Hulkster, Andre the Giant, Rowdy Roddy Piper, the Undertaker, the Iron Sheik, King Kong Bundy, and Jake "the Snake" Roberts. This game contains too many to list! There are even some newer stars like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. You can team up your wrestler with managers like Jimmy Hart and Bobby "The Brain" Hennan, but why are there only four managers to choose from? Where the [expletive] is Captain Lou Albano?

Each match begins with the fighters approaching the ring as music blares, but these sequences are surprisingly uneventful. In the ring, you first initiate a punch or a grapple, and the possibilities branch out from there. I like the simple control scheme, which lets you perform throws, elbow drops, head stomps, and clothelines with ease. You can climb the turnbuckles or walk freely outside the ring. For more elaborate moves, a series of button prompts will flash, and hitting a button before your opponent does will give you the upper hand.

Although the matches are fairly vanilla, every now and then something funny will happen, like Hulk Hogan will try to pick up King Kong Bundy and sprain his back! Managers tend to interfere with the matches, usually when you're trying to pin your opponent. Playing tag team with a friend is fun, but why in the hell is it so hard to tag your partner??

Besides the head-to-head mode, there's the obligatory create-a-wrestler feature. The user interface for customizing your character sucks, but moving up the ranks is a challenge. A Tour Mode lets you relive (and rewrite) dramatic moments from past Wrestlemanias, but to be honest, the best part of these is watching the old footage.

Legends of Wrestlemania should have been the ultimate wrestling game, but it's missing a few key ingredients. Namely, it's lacking the theatrics and showmanship of the old days. Why is there no talking?! Back in the day, the wrestlers and managers would do extensive interviews before the fights, and the trash-talking was half the fun! Where is Mean Gene Okerlund when you need him? Even showing a short, canned interview before each match would have been worth a letter grade in my mind.

Another missing element is the referees. Yeah, I know they could never restore any order during bouts, but it was always fun to see them try. On the whole Legends of Wrestlemania is a moderately fun game, but it fails to capitalize on its rich roster of memorable personalities. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars
Grade: B
Publisher: THQ (2010)
Reviewed: 2016/8/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotA few years back my buddy Brent introduced me to sprint car racing, luring me up to Williams Grove Speedway with a six-pack of Pinner beer (well played, sir). Sprint cars are small winged vehicles that race around dirt ovals at harrowing speeds.

For sprint car fans World of Outlaws is like the holy grail of games. Fully-licensed with real drivers and actual venues, this game perfectly captures the festive atmosphere and high-speed thrills of the sprint car circuit. Williams Grove looks so much like the real thing I could almost spot myself in the stands chowing down a $1.75 hot dog. Those blood red sunsets look amazing.

In terms of gameplay World of Outlaws is a lot harder than you might expect. The triggers let you precisely regulate your speed with precision, gunning it on straightaways and executing extended power-slides around turns. It's exhilarating as you're sliding halfway out-of-control with other cars in close proximity. The steering is difficult, as one false move will spin you around or send you plowing into a wall.

As in real sprint car racing, flying mud tends to obstruct your vision, but pressing X will tear tape off your goggles and clear the screen - a nice touch. I really love how icons like exclamation points, fire, or a cup appear over other cars. Since the icons are never explained, my friends like to come up with their own comical interpretations.

The career mode lets you gradually unlock new tracks and I like how you can skip time trials and intermediate heats (if so inclined). The two-player split-screen is very good but sometimes it seems to indicate the wrong player won. Racing around ovals may not be for everyone, but World of Outlaws really brings this sport to life. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

X-Arcade Unplugged Volume 1
Grade: B-
Publisher: Microsoft (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/10/28
Rating: E-T (simulated gambling, mild fantasy violence, comic mischief, mild cartoon violence)


screenshotI was pretty psyched when I heard about this unlikely compilation. I've long resisted the urge to join Microsoft's Xbox Live on-line service, but I've heard intriguing things about one particular X-Arcade game called "Geometry Wars". Geometry Wars headlines this collection, but does it live up to the hype? Is it really the best game for the system? Is it worth giving up your life savings or selling a kidney for? Yes. Absolutely.

An entrancing combination of Asteroids (1979) and Robotron (1981), this ultra-addictive 2D shooter offers visceral non-stop action, visual splendor, and an ass-kicking techno soundtrack. Heck, this one game justifies the entire package! The other five titles on the disk are far less compelling. Bejeweled 2 is a Tetris-inspired puzzler with attractive graphics and a pleasant new age soundtrack. Hexic is another puzzler played by rotating hexagonal gems. Both feature the same brand of simple but relaxing, mesmerizing gameplay.

Hardwood Backgammon is a single-player version of the classic board game, but it benefits from an intuitive interface and helpful tutorial. Outpost Kaloki is best described as SimCity in space, but despite its offbeat sense of humor and big-band musical score, it failed to hold my attention. Wik: The Fable of Souls, is a ho-hum platformer with a visual style similar to OddWorld: Abe's Odyssey (Playstation, 1997). If you can imagine playing a platform game with a mouse, you'll have a pretty good idea of what Wik's about. Texas Hold 'Em is a sharp version of the popular card game, and I found it to be a useful tool for learning how to play.

So where's the "arcade" in X-Arcade Unplugged? With the exception of Geometry Wars, you can't help but get the feeling that Microsoft was trying to unload its "worst sellers". Even more insidious is how you cannot record your high scores unless you're logged into Xbox Live! So let me get this straight: Microsoft calls this "unplugged" and then forces you to log in to use a key feature? In light of this, the package starts to look like a cheap gimmick to lure off-line customers onto the service. X-Arcade Unplugged gets by on the strength of the phenomenal Geometry Wars, but ultimately it comes off as a glorified demo disk. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

X-Men The Arcade Game
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Reviewed: 2011/1/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs much as I prefer buying my games on disk, this download-only title was just too hard to resist. I have vivid memories of seeing six people play X-Men at the local arcade at Security Square Mall back in the day. It was captivating to watch. The massive cabinet featured three large side-by-side screens which gave the illusion of one super-wide playing field.

X-Men's simple brand of side-scrolling fighting action is pure 2D bliss. Up to six players can team up as Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Dazzler. Each hero has a trademark special move like Cyclop's eye laser and Storm's tornado summoning. Colossus' special attack is accompanied by a hilarious roar, and Nightcrawler kills every foe as he makes a mad dash around the screen. Although the scenery isn't spectacular by any means, the vivid, comic-book style visuals look great. The audio is less impressive, with many background tunes riddled by annoying samples.

This relatively short adventure takes you through war-torn streets, caves, jungles, and industrial facilities as you track down the evil Magneto. At first you'll face waves of generic robots, but eventually you battle imaginatively-designed freaky mutants. Beating them up is fun, and you can even hit them when they're down! Each stage concludes with an obligatory boss encounter, at which time all the players predictably unleash their special attacks non-stop. The abrupt cut-scenes between stages are unintentionally funny, and you have to relish cheesy voice samples like "the White Queen welcomes you... to die!"

X-Men is a fantastic arcade game, so I'm disgusted by how poorly it's implemented on Xbox Live. First, the scoring system is awful. You score a point for each kill, so wiping out a swarm of bees nets you 20 while defeating a boss earns you one. Even if the scoring made sense, there's no mechanism for saving local scores. Next we have the issue of unlimited continues. Not only does this eliminate any tension or challenge, but it encourages players low on health to kill themselves just so they can recharge their special attacks!

I was excited about playing on-line with five people, but it turned out to be a jerky, blinky mess. Whoever ported this game on Xbox Live was lazy and thoughtless. Either they don't know anything about video games or were just out to make a buck (probably both). You'll enjoy playing through it once, but after that X-Men's replay value becomes negligible. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 6 players 

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Grade: B+
Publisher: 2K Games (2012)
Reviewed: 2012/11/17
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, strong language, violence)

screenshotThis intense strategy title is a "reboot" of a PC cult favorite released in 1994. X-COM: Enemy Unknown perfectly captures the "just one more try" feel of the original. Alien forces are harassing the Earth and it's your job as commander of the secret multinational X-COM organization to find out why... and beat back the Green Menace!

Quick tutorials lay out the basics of running your base and commanding soldiers. At headquarters you'll need to decide what technologies to research, what gadgets to build, and which requests for assistance to respond to. Missions include intervening against alien terror attacks, escorting VIP's, and investigating grounded UFOs. If you're tired of first-person shooters, this is the game for you!

Good reflexes with the controller will do you no good here. Just like real life alien abductions, you'll need to think your way out of this mess! Each mission lets you methodically position troops in a turn-based isometric world, and it's important to make sure your soldier always has some kind of cover. A real game manual would have come in handy in lieu of the now-standard three-page leaflet.

The rules of engagement are not always clear, and even after extended play certain elements of the game seem mysterious. You'll want to know all your options, because only an experienced, combat-hardened X-COM operative stands a chance in later missions. The graphics are appropriately campy for the retro-style sci-fi theme of the game, and the creepy sound effects are effective.

X-COM starts off slow but becomes more interesting as you progress and resource management becomes increasingly important. Once you fully develop a soldier, it's painful to lose him on the battlefield. If you lose several troops on a particularly tough mission, you'll find yourself desperately short-handed for the next one.

The game has terrific depth and complexity, yet the user interface is intelligently designed and a pleasure to navigate. X-COM: Enemy Unknown is a slow-burn title that will test your patience up front but pays off in the long run. NOTE: Special thanks to the C-64 Critic for contributing to this review. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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