This is part of a ongoing look back at my video game collecting days. So far I’ve covered;
Part – Mega Drive
Part 2 – N64
Part 3 – Gamecube
Part 4 – Game Boy Advance
I can’t remember the exact moment I decided I wanted an Xbox. It wasn’t down to any dissatisfaction with my growing collection. I didn’t even really know anything about the Xbox. All I knew was that it had Championship Manager and that was all I had ever wanted from a console.
Championship Manager was the one game that had always eluded me. While my peers were having the time of their life taking obscure lower league teams to the Champions League Final, I was sulking on the sidelines. I was the one unlucky kid who had the misfortune to have the only PC in the world that couldn’t play Championship Manager. Apparently, it was due to a incompatible processor, but it made no sense to me. The PC could run Sim City 3000 or Heroes of ,Might and Magic fine, but it would not play Championship Manager past the title screen. Still, I now had a way to play it and in my bedroom too, away from other people wanting to use the family PC.
Only thing I had to do was buy an Xbox…like the Gamecube, the Xbox could be picked up for a decent price secondhand. In fact, I went back to the same shop I bought the Gamecube from earlier in the year and grabbed an Xbox with a pad for £85 of my Christmas money, which I though was a decent deal back then.
Well, more accurately the Xbox grabbed me…remember the talk back in the day about the size and weight of the Xbox? I can confirm they weren’t kidding. I had made my purchase on a day Iwas in Uni, a huge mistake in hindsight. I went to Liverpool University, which is on top of a hill. The game shop where I bought my Xbox from, was near Lime Street Station at the bottom of the hill. Cue a long trek up the hill, with an Xbox in my backpack….I do have some back problems these days and I’m convinced the Xbox is to blame!
Luckily, I got replaced the original pad straight away, before I could develop any arthritis. ‘The Duke’ was a ridiculously big pad and even playing a slow game like Championship Manager was a nightmare. My hands took ages to travel across the pad to press the Black and White buttons and I knew I had to spend money on a new pad in order to get the most out of my new console. The S Type Pad was a great pad though and would lead to one of my favourite pads ever, the Xbox 360 pad, being developed.
The Xbox was a Christmas present technically, so I had to wait a few weeks until Christmas day. However, it was definitely worth the wait – playing Championship Manager all day and night in my own room was incredible. I became obsessed with learning how to play the game, from learning what the best tactics were, to building an amazing training plan for my team. The highlight of my Championship Manager run was taking Southampton to 2nd in the Premier League and winning the League Cup. I never could break Man United’s dominance though!
It wasn’t solely Championship Manager that occupied my time on the Xbox. I had also got Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the Xbox that Christmas. I loved the TV show, but was always suspicious that licensed games were garbage. I was pleasantly surprised – Buffy was a cracking little game, with great combat and was very faithful to the show. Buffy was a landmark game for me as it was the first time I got stuck on a game and didn’t quit…I actually stuck with the game, battled through and completed it. It was a confidence boost and the first time I realised that I could complete games and it wasn’t just something ‘good gamers’ did. I bought the sequel Buffy; Chaos Bleeds a few years later off the back of the first game and was disappointed. The development team had been changed from the original team and as a result, Chaos Bleeds was a confusing, weaker version of the original game with some shocking voice acting. If you don’t believe me, listen to the voice actor replacing Alyson Hannigan on YouTube….
I was happy with my new console and set out to get some other games for it, with varying results. I couldn’t get into Panzer Dragoon Orta for example, something I bitterly regret now. A great Sega game and one that sadly hasn’t been re-released. Nothing else was really grabbing me until the release of Burnout 3. Burnout 3 was the game that defined the Xbox for me – I know you could get it on PS2, but the Xbox was perfect for Burnout. It could hand the speed, my (new S-Type) controller felt completely natural and the custom soundtracks were incredible. I spent ages building my own custom soundtrack, trying to get songs about or with driving terms in the soundtrack. ‘Drive’ by R.E.M is an easy one, but it’s harder than you think!
I played through Burnout 3 methodically, but there was one race I just couldn’t beat…the F1 car time trial in Asia. I would try and try, but the race demanded 45 minutes of perfect racing in order to get the gold medal. I became obsessed with beating that track…every Tuesday night, I developed a ritual. I would get home from Uni about 5:30pm and try and beat the race before my friend came over. I had a specific album I played in the background too, Therapy?’s Caucasian Psychosis. It’s a heavy, but rhythm led album, perfect for my attempts at concentrating. It must have worked too, as I finally beat the track. I am 100% convinced I couldn’t beat that track today.
As I headed into 2005, there were three (I would argue two) games that would keep my attention. The first one was Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance. I loved Mortal Kombat as a kid, but once Tekken and the wave of 3D fighters came out, I had abandoned Mortal Kombat. I’d had a brief go of Mortal Kombat 4 and thought it was laughable and that the series was dead. Deadly Alliance was a reminder that there was life in the old dog – it had lots of my favourite Mortal Kombat characters in as well as a really cool and sinister story too. I would just chill out all night, working by way through the Konquest mode, earning coins and buying all the collectables from the Krypt. It was a fun way of spending a night and I built up quite a collection of artwork, additional characters and trivia before trading the game in.
However it was Max Payne that took over my final summer with the Xbox. I’d come out of a bad break up and ended up losing myself in the world of Max Payne. I’d get in from work, fire up the Xbox and play, completely absorbed in the game. I loved everything about it from it’s characters, to the melodramatic dialogue to the noir art direction. Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne (technically the third game I mentioned, but it’s practically DLC so I count it and the original as one game) was gobbled up just as quickly and gave me some closure to Max’s plight. I can’t bring myself to play Max Payne 3…I’m happy with how the story played out and don’t want to ruin my memories of that summer, gunning down gangsters and saying overblown things in the most sombre voice ever. I also credit Max Payne with crediting my gaming horizons. Before playing it, I dismissed games like Max Payne, Hitman, Splinter Cell etc as ‘PC games’, games that were too hard for a console gamer like me. After playing Max Payne, I realised that these more adult games were something I enjoyed and something I could excel at, if I dedicated some time to them.
In the two years I owned it, the Xbox had become my premier console. Sure the PS2 had Pro Evo and Smackdown, but they were the only two games keeping it from being traded in. The Xbox was technically the best console, had a great pad and a fine library of games. Unfortunately, the Xbox 360 was due out that winter and the lure of the new console was too wrong. I made the decision to sell the Xbox and I’ve never regretted it. Given the great memories of the Xbox 360 I have, it was the right decision to sell the Xbox. However, I’ve fond memories of the heavy, awkward hard drive that pretended it was a console and we had some good times together. Whether it was the people of Southampton taking to the streets to celebrate the free signing of Nicola Amoruso, taking down cars against the clock, laughing at Kano slagging off the other Kombatants in his cockney accent or hunting for painkillers, we had some good times…
…plus Halo is a great multiplayer game. Can’t believe I wrote about the Xbox for over 1,500 words and nearly forgot about Halo!