8 best sci-fi games
Xbox has been home to some of the best science fiction games ever, but these are the essential eight that every gamer should try before it’s too late
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
2027 is great. You can have your limbs and internal organs replaced with advanced prosthetics – designed to let you become a master hacker, fighter and all-round badass. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a complex FPS/RPG hybrid that impressed with its open-ended gameplay and slick sci-fi world. Eidos Montreal did an outstanding job with Human Revolution, especially when you consider the trepidation fans went into it with. It’s slower, and more thoughtful than some of the other entries on this list, but one of the best to grace the Xbox 360.
What is there to say about Half-Life 2 that hasn’t been said a hundred times over? A new height for storytelling and emergent gameplay, Half-Life 2 cleverly played with sci-fi conventions as it pushed Gordon Freeman through the dystopian City 17; ushering in one of the finest shooters ever released on Xbox. Nonsense science-chatter, gravity guns and the half-alien Combine threat continues to engage to this day. Half Life 2 is the game we compare any narrative focused shooter on today, and it hasn’t wavered in its efforts to impress on every playthrough even now, a decade later.
When BioWare announced its intention to step away from Star Wars, following the success of Knights Of The Old Republic, many raised an eyebrow. Especially as it revealed its debut Xbox 360 title as Mass Effect, a sci-fi RPG game that looked intent on building a new universe and populating it with engaging characters to rival that of George Lucas’ creation. But BioWare achieved the impossible. Mass Effect became one of the most endearing and successful Xbox franchises, a triumph for modern sci-fi and a new benchmark for RPGs that few have managed to trump. An absolute must-play.
Portal is a true phenomenon. Conceived as a two-hour puzzle adventure released with The Orange Box, it surprised everyone with its tight mechanics and quirky sense of humour. When Valve approached a sequel, it somehow spiralled that experience out into a full and engaging ten-hour campaign. An incredible puzzler, superb co-operative game and a genuine comedy, it played to the ‘science’ of sci-fi unlike anything before it. Scriptwriting, puzzle design and art direction work together seamlessly to create an engaging sci-fi world that manages to be as compelling as it is challenging.
We don’t know what living in the future is going to be like, but we kind of hope it’s a little like the fractured society found on Pandora. Sure, there are mutant animals and roaming gangs of looters to contend with – but then that’s no different to some parts of England. Full of vibrant colour, energy and kickass futuristic weaponry, Borderlands was a surprising release that continues to impress today. The hunt for Pandora’s mysterious vault, with three friends in tow, is an enduring memory for early 360 adopters, and it has proved to be a world with endless story potential as its sequels continue to prove.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Reviving cult franchises is no easy task, but Firaxis managed to not only capture the feel of classic XCOM, but also deliver one of the finest strategy games of the generation. Tasked with saving earth from an invading enemy force with your own customisable set of defenders, the near-impossible mission was utterly engrossing from start to finish. Never has a game quite managed to unleash the full ferocity of an alien invasion on us – its constant escalation of enemy power and weaponry became a stark reminder that we aren’t the masters of our own universe.
It looks like the sequel might never happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t return to the original and enjoy one of the weirdest FPS’ to grace the 360 platform. ‘Earth’s saviour doesn’t want the job’ was the tagline, and we can’t blame Tommy – the Cherokee garage mechanic stuck living on a Native American reservation. He (and so did we, to be fair) wanted to leave the reservation, though he never imagined that would entail being abducted by aliens and forced to embrace his Cherokee culture and crazy portal technology to try and save his girlfriend and return to earth. Prey’s an underrated gem.
Dead Space is bloody horrible. It’s caused heart palpitations, panic attacks and given us an unhealthy fear of vents. Undoubtedly one of the scariest games to release in the decade, not to mention utterly engrossing from start to finish… okay, so it’s bloody brilliant, we just have a low tolerance for anything that makes us sob into the night. Dead Space introduces gamers to a bleak reality aboard the interstellar mining ship, the USG Ishimura. Reanimated horrors stalk its dark corridors, gravity is failing – Isaac Clarke’s world is falling apart. The closest gaming experience to Ridley Scott’s Alien so far…
Did we miss one of your favourites? Let us know.