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Seven beautiful Xbox 360 games you should play before the next gen leap

Current gen's on the way out - don't miss the highlights

I like to think I was above the lure of technology for technology's sake - but over Christmas, I revisited a copy of Thief 3: Deadly Shadows, and found myself hankering for the voluptuous sheen of a modern release. Alas, my treasured collection of Xbox 360 titles is now teetering on the brink of a similar obsolescence.

Rumours suggest that Microsoft will announce a new Xbox console in April, a cutting edge piece of gear that will bleach all that's gone before of charisma. This is all the sadder when you consider that many of today's comeliest games are feats not just of might, but cunning - squeezing undreamt-of levels of performance and fidelity from ageing hardware via increasingly esoteric workarounds.

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Glittery visuals are no substitute for great mechanics, of course, and I suspect that on this front, the pick of Xbox 360's line-up will surpass whatever you'll play on next gen consoles for a good few years at least. Don't bid a tearful goodbye to your current gen hoard just yet, then, but do make haste to experience the gorgeous games below, before the likes of Halo 5, Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313 make a mockery of their elderly looks. These are just my own, personal and passably informed picks, natch, and there are times when I stray into discussion of the design - it's tricky to talk about such things in isolation. Feel free to make your own recommendations.

1. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The craziest thing about Skyrim - other than that all the kids are Yanks and all the guards think somebody's pinched your Sweet Roll - is that it comes on one disc. Bethesda's last open world might be the most fearsomely skilled instance of asset reuse ever coded, arranging and rearranging dungeon décor, frostbitten escarpments, funeral urns, Dwemer pipes and the like to proffer interesting environments well past the 60th hour of play. The assets are consistently beautiful, too, whether you're talking about a domed elevator chamber or a leatherbound spell tome.

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2. Assassin's Creed 2
I've gone with the second entry rather than the theoretically more advanced third (which runs on an overhauled Anvil Next engine) because the setting lends itself to spectacle in a way Assassin's Creed 3's colonial America rarely manages. The mosaics, arches, domes and pillars of Florence, Rome and Venice are feasts for the eyes in themselves - the carefully adapted fruits of painstaking historical research - but they'd be nothing without the crowd, a slew of bumbling, conversing, loitering corpses-in-waiting. Assassin's Creed 2 is also one of the very few games that's persuaded me to give a damn about the colour of my trousers. That's period charm for you.

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3. Bioshock
This one's definitely past its best, but I'd challenge you to remain unmoved when the curtain of Andrew Ryan's introductory address peels back to reveal the shimmering green immensity of Rapture, the game's submarine setting. It's like the opening sequence in Blade Runner, only somebody's forced Deckard's head into a fish tank. Within, you'll find some beautifully rendered water effects and impressively lurid lighting systems - to better appreciate the latter, halt before disturbing the Splicer who's talking to her "baby" and watch her shadow play out on the wall.


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