2009 Xbox 360 Holiday Buying Guide

Since games are a pretty recent edition to the Fire Wire, there are probably a few of you out there who are curious abut jumping in but don’t really know where to start.  Here’s a quick and easy guide holiday guide to the Xbox 360 that should get you up and running if you’re on the fence about buying a video game system.  The Xbox 360 really is a good place to start because it offers so much more of a variety– not just in terms of the games but also in terms of what kind of system you should buy– depending on the type of gamer you want to be.  If you’re not shopping for a system this season, but you do have gamers on your Christmas list, the games section of this guide should help.


If you’re planning on buying an Xbox 360, there are a couple things you need to know. There are two standard versions of the Xbox 360 as well as some limited edition machines:

Xbox 360 Arcade: The Arcade version currently sells for a suggested price of $199.99.  It includes a white Xbox 360, standard component cables, a wireless controller, and a 512MB memory card.  It does not include a hard drive which is necessary if you want to save large file games, music, media, or access downloadable content (DLC) online.

Xbox 360 Elite: Priced at $299.99, the Elite comes with a stylish black Xbox 360, a wireless controller, component cables, a headset, and a 120 GB hard drive.

Limited Editions:  From time to time, special versions are of the system are offered to coincide with a big game release or the holidays.  This year we have the Modern Warfare 2 Xbox 360 Bundle.  It comes with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game, a unique paint job, and boasts a whopping 250 GB hard drive.  Unfortunately it also boasts a whopping $399.99 price tag.

Recommendation :  The Elite may cost $100 more but it’s definitely worth the price.  The hard drive is worth its weight in gold.  With the recent addition of Games On Demand to the Xbox Live (online) Marketplace, it allows you to purchase and store full Xbox 360 game titles and downloadable add-ons on your system.

Optional Items

HDMI Cable: If you’ve purchased an HDTV in the last three years it should have at least one HDMI port somewhere on it.  An HDMI cable allows for the easiest system set-up and provides the best possible visual and audio fidelity.

Wireless Network Adapter: This fits on the back of your Xbox 360 and is the only way to get online wirelessly.  It costs an additional $99.99.  Damn your eyes, Microsoft.

Xbox Live Gold: Microsoft’s Gold service is your ticket to Xbox’s virtual on-line playground.  Compete head-to-head with your friends or settle in for a friendly co-op romp.  Friend tracking, the ability to stream NetFlix instantly, and upcoming Facebook and Twitter support make this little goodie worth it’s weight in… ahem… please don’t make me say it.  One year of service costs $49.99.

Microsoft Points: Virtual money or space bucks as they are sometimes referred to.  They can be purchased online directly through the console via credit card or as gift cards at the brick and mortar shops.  Spend your space bucks on downloadable content ranging from full games, game add-ons, desktop themes, and movie rentals.

Play and Charge Kit: Rechargeable battery and cable that plugs into your system.  When your batteries die, it charges your controller while you are playing.  Another great accessory to have as it saves you money in the long run by not having to keep feeding AA’s to your controller.


The business side of things is done, so let’s get on to the fun stuff.  Ok, you’ve got your machine all set up.  Now what?  2009 has seen some incredibly fun and impressive looking games.  Want to know which one is best for you?  Here you go:

Assassin’s Creed II

Publisher: Ubisoft

Genre: Action

Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

ESRB: Mature

Ubisoft’s second entry in the Assassin’s Creed series transports the action to Italy. The The sequel has more weapons, prettier locales, and a whole lot ways to kill. You take the role of Ezio as he leaps and sneaks across Florence, Venice, and other gorgeous Italian cities to take out his targets.  Being a master assassin was pretty cool the first time around, but this game blows it out of the water as the new hero can swim, wield dual blades, and change clothing to blend in with the locals.  All this and the fact that Leonardo Da Vinci builds your weapons, Dante Alighieri was your great grandfather, and Lorenzo DeMedici is counting on you to save his ass.  Oh, and by the way, you’re really in the future.  Historical fiction/sci-fi has never been so much fun.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  The Da Vinci Code, The Matrix, The Vitruvian Man


Batman: Arkham Asylum

Publisher: Eidos Interactive

Genre: Action

Developer: Rocksteady Studios

ESRB: Teen

Behold the greatest comic book game of all time. Batman: Arkham Asylum delivers an intense, adult story featuring the Dark Knight and a handful of his greatest villains as the Batman is forced to spend a night in Arkham Asylum when the Joker locks him in.  It may have taken twenty years, but finally there’s a game about the World’s Greatest Detective where you get to do actual detective work.  And damn is it fun.  Haunting production design and eerie tone, Arkham Asylum is all about mood.  As Batman you’ll engage dozens of enemies at once in hand-to-hand combat, strike from the shadows to instill fear, and use all sorts of cool gadgets to bring down the bad guys.  With two hundred plus Riddler puzzles scattered around Arkham Island, this is an adventure with legs.  There is also set of challenge rooms that will put your sneaking and fighting skills to the test.  With an original script penned by Emmy Award-winning Batman writer Paul Dini, the game brings the universe of DC Comics’ detective to life.  Not to mention Mark Hammil is on top of his game starring as the voice of the Joker.   Fans of the animated series, if you’re anything like me in thinking that Kevin Conroy is the ONLY Batman, then this one is for you.

Buy this if you are a fan of: The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, BioShock

The Beatles: Rock Band

Publisher: MTV Games

Genre: Music

Developer: Harmonix

ESRB: Teen

A videogame worthy of the greatest band of all time, The Beatles: Rock Band offers everything a fan could want.  The game comes with 45 of their biggest hits and follows the Fab Four from their early days at The Cavern Club and ends with a jam session on the roof of Apple Corps.  What makes this music game truly special — aside from starring The Beatles — is a series of magical dreamscapes, which play in the background when performing songs from the group’s studio days.  This is the ultimate interactive companion piece to your Beatles collection.  A must own for anyone who loves The Beatles.


Publisher: 2K Games

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Gearbox

ESRB: Mature

At the edge of the galaxy lies Pandora, a planet that was reported to be rich in untapped mineral wealth.  It drew many hoping to get rich quick, but in the end little was found beyond the scattered wasteland ruins of a past alien civilization. All soon abandoned Pandora, leaving those who remained to deal with the lawlessness of a world gone bust and the mystery of the long-dead alien civilization.  As chaotic as these times were, worse days were yet to come.  After several years, the planet’s huge orbit slowly brought it closer to its sun and horrifying creatures sprang from long hibernation to terrify those left behind.  Now, the only hope for the colonists seems to be a vault discovered in the side of a mountainside, rumored to contain alien weapon technology.  It may spell hope for the survivors of Pandora… if they can find it.  Borderlands features several playable characters each with distinct abilities and skills that can be leveled up to improve attributes like health, accuracy with weapons and capacity for items.  The game is a first person shooter with a MMORPG skeleton.  Playing with three other people will result in one of the most bullet-riddled, loot-huntin, creature-slaying fun times to be had all year.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  The Mad Max series, Diablo, and guns


Brutal Legend

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Genre: Action

Developer: Double Fine

ESRB: Mature

The vivid and wildly creative world of Brütal Legend is brought to life through a spate of chrome, leather, rocker babes, epic music, fire-breathing/stud-wearing beasts, mountains made of guitar amps, and more. Follow roadie Eddie Riggs as he embarks on a tour of epic destruction with an axe, a guitar, and the power of rock.  It’s lighter-flicking awesomeness that will melt your face clean off. Walk, drive, or fly anywhere in a fully open world whose art style is inspired by the most iconic metal album covers ever.  Every vista in Brütal Legend looks like it was pulled from a Frank Frazetta painting.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Tenacious D, Spinal Tap, real heavy metal


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Publisher: Activision

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Infinity Ward

ESRB: Mature

Easily the most anticipated game of the year, Activision’s sequel to Call of Duty 4 boasts an even more robust online experience, an all-new Special Ops mode for two player co-op, and a cinematic single player campaign that makes the latest Bruckheimer movie feel like a McDonald’s PlayPlace.  Developer Infinity Ward has once again raised the bar on  first-person shooters. If you’re a fan of high octane action, you owe it to yourself to experience this incredible package. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Michael Bay, Black Hawk Down, The Rock, 24, Generation Kill, Red Dawn


Dragon Age: Origins

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Genre: Role Playing Action/Adventure

Developer: Bioware

ESRB: Mature

Dragon Age: Origins is an RPG based in a dark, heroic, fantasy realm where moral choices have a lasting impression on the people you meet, the members of your own party and the world around you.  The survival of humanity rests in the hands of those chosen by fate. You are a Grey Warden, the last of an ancient order who have defended the lands on the continent of Thedas throughout the centuries. Betrayed by a trusted general in a critical battle, you must hunt down the traitor and bring him to justice.  As you fight your way towards the final confrontation with an evil nemesis, you will face monstrous foes and engage in epic quests to unite the disparate peoples of a world at war. A romance with a seductive shapeshifter may hold the key to victory, or she may be a dangerous diversion from the heart of your mission.  To be a leader, you must make ruthless decisions and be willing to sacrifice your friends and loved ones for the greater good.

DA: Origins features six unique stories available to new heroes as a new game begins. Each of these has an impact on the player’s motivations and his or her experience, and renders a unique prelude, path, and possible ending(s) to the game.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: The Lord of the Rings series and Dungeons & Dragons

Forza Motorsport 3

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: Racing

Developer: Turn 10 Studios

ESRB: Everyone

Forza 3 is the preeminent racing game of the year.  Live the most realistic racing experience ever as you take the wheel of more than 400 of the most-beloved cars on over 100 renowned real-world tracks and exotic road courses from around the globe. Designed to be played and enjoyed by gamers of all skill levels, Forza 3 delivers a fun and engrossing racing experience for the entire family. With breathtaking high-definition graphics and the most advanced vehicle performance modeling in a video game, Forza Motorsport 3 includes a host of driving assists and adjustable skill levels to make the game a gripping pick-up-and-play experience for anyone.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: driving expense cars you will never be able to afford.

Halo 3: ODST

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Bungie Software

ESRB: Mature

This isn’t your ordinary Halo game.   In it, you play as a team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers who answer the call to arms in a battle for Earth’s mega-city, New Mombassa. It’s dark, brooding, and action packed.  A very fresh approach to a Halo game, ODST thrusts you square in the middle of a battle where there is no Master Chief to save your ass when the thunder comes down.  Now I know you’re all probably saying, “A Halo game?!  With no Master Chief?!  C’mon!”  But take my word for it, the first time you face a Brute or Elite with the knowledge that you’re not a superhuman, it changes the way you’ve approached Halo games over the last few years and makes the experience a hell of a lot deeper.  Couple this with the fact that the new campaign chapter predates the events that unfold in Halo 3, giving players a new perspective through the eyes of a new hero in the Halo universe, and it makes for a very fresh take on a familiar game.  Halo 3: ODST packs in a brand new six hour campaign, a four-player co-op mode called Firefight, and every single Halo 3 multiplayer map ever created.

Buy this is you’re a fan of:  Aliens, District 9, Star Trek, James Cameron’s Avatar

Left 4 Dead 2

Publisher: Electronic Arts/Valve

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Valve

ESRB: Mature

Down in the bayou of Louisiana, all hell has broken loose in this second entry of the multiplayer zombie-fest.  As the sequel to one of the most distinctive multiplayer shooters of the modern era, the concept is simple: team up with four others and stay alive.  Run through stages and slaughter the undead as you ride out the zombie apocalypse from a first-person perspective.  With new enemies, new weapons, new stages, new characters, Left 4 Dead 2 tops the original in every way.  It’s a horror fan’s dream come to life.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: World War Z, George Romero, 28 Weeks Later


Red Faction: Guerilla

Publisher: THQ

Genre: Action

Developer: Volition

ESRB: Mature

In the year 2075, the Earth Defense Force received a distress signal from a small mining facility on the surface of Mars. A group of rebels calling themselves the Red Faction had overthrown the ruthless Ultor Corporation after years of oppression.  The EDF responded by launching a fleet of warships to Mars to aid the miners, bring Ultor to justice and restore order to the Martian colonies. In order to ensure safety and security for the newly liberated colonists, the EDF set up command posts and bases across the planet.  But what began as liberation quickly turned into another tyrannical oppression as the EDF grew powerful.  And now it’s up to you to lead the revolution and take Mars back from the EDF.  Use destruction to your tactical advantage by setting ambushes or chain reaction explosions to attack enemy strongholds and permanently modify the game environment.  The game’s amazing Geo-Mod technology lets you destroy anything and everything.  Leverage fully-dynamic physics-based destruction to improvise on the fly: blow holes in a wall or floor to set an ambush or escape, take out a staircase to stop your pursuers, or drive vehicles through blown out walls.  Who would’ve ever thought the best weapon to grace an action shooter in the last five years would be a sledgehammer?  The first time you take down a towering smokestack with one, you’ll be a believer too.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Total Recall, Ray Bradbury, and building demolition

Resident Evil 5

Publisher: Capcom

Genre: Shooter/Survival Horror

Developer: Capcom

ESRB: Mature

This sci-fi survival game is staged in a remote African desert colony packed with hordes of fast-moving, quick-thinking enemies that represent a whole new breed of evil.  Back from the original Resident Evil, former S.T.A.R.S. special-forces team member Chris Redfield is a battle-tested veteran with a reputation for superior marksmanship and phenomenal hand-to-hand combat abilities.  On the ground and up against a new strain of evil, you call his shots from the same over-the-shoulder, third-person viewpoint that distinguished Resident Evil 4 apart from the rest.  Only this time you’ll have the option of playing as his teammate, the fierce and sexy local, Shiva Alomar.  A new cooperative game play element focuses on the realities of a dual-agent mission, highlighting the ways in which Redfield and Alomar must work together to survive the unexpected, while still allowing them to split up and work alone. To help you maximize the potential of this setup, two-player online and offline co-op modes are available through the entire story.

Buy this if you’re a fan of:  District 9, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later

Shadow Complex

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Genre: Shooter

Developer: Chair Entertainment

ESRB: Teen

Old school gamers rejoice!  Shadow Complex is a modern day throw back to Nintendo classics like Super Metroid or Castlevania. But just because it plays like an old game doesn’t stop Shadow Complex from being one of the best games of the year.  What begins as a normal date in the woods soon turns into a massive adventure through an underground military complex as you scour tunnels for hidden pick-ups, new weapons,  tools, and shortcuts to your ultimate goal: saving the world from total annihilation.  Shadow Complex is set in the universe of Empire, Orson Scott Card’s best-selling novel, and provides a fresh twist on classic side-scroller action.  Gameplay centers around exploration and fast-paced combat as players gather power-ups to overcome obstacles and thwart enemies.  Buyers take note: Shadow Complex can’t be found at your local videogame store. It comes exclusively through the Xbox Live Marketplace in downloadable form.

Buy this if you’re a fan of: Orson Scott Card, Tom Clancy, The Jason Bourne series, NES classics Metroid and Castlevania.

(written by Nick Creature)

Published by Larry Fire

I write an eclectic pop culture blog called THE FIRE WIRE that features articles about books, comics, music, movies, television, gadgets, posters, toys & more!

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