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Xbox 360's Dead Online Games

Because apparently, not everyone is playing Halo 3 online...

The most popular games online are Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3. You know that, I know that, everyone knows that.

So what happens to the lesser known games as time marches on and the smaller games are squeezed off the shelves? Do the communities live on? Do the hardcore refuse to let go? Do newcomers to Xbox Live wander into empty lobbies and try to figure out why nothing is working?

We take a handful of older games in the office and give them a whirl online, to see what's left of the original communities...

Case 1. SMACKDOWN VS RAW
TIME PLAYED: 30 MINUTES
TOTAL PLAYERS: 14

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Yes, people still play SmackDown online, people like THEBOSS6976. "What are the controls, mate?" he asked as The Big Show was getting his head slammed into the cage wall. "I only just got this today."

We explained, then asked why he didn't get Halo 3. "I bought Medal of Honor: Airborne instead. It's really good online." Cue silence. "Cheers for the game, mate. I have to go now." Yes. Yes, you do.

Case 2. FIFA 06: ROAD TO THE WORLD CUP
TIME PLAYED: 30 MINUTES
TOTAL PLAYERS: 1

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Suggested as a joke, we decided to fire it up so we'd have a lobby going in the background while we're working. Then it happened. Jamoun Da Don walked into our lobby, dazed and confused like the last two years in gaming never happened. Never mind the fact that this is 2008, Jamoun Da Don is still on the road to the 2006 World Cup.

One day, he will get there! But until he learns how to select his team in the lobby rather than just sitting there until we quit out of boredom, that day is a long way away.

Case 3. F.E.A.R.
TIME PLAYED: 20 MINUTES
TOTAL PLAYERS: 8

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After F.E.A.R. was released, it was left to fend for itself against the likes of Gears of War and Rainbow Six Vegas. Its spirit was quickly crushed and the online community drifted away like crisp packets in the wind, with the free maps that came many months later the equivalent of giving an old corpse CPR while keeping your fingers crossed that everything will work out fine.

This is evident in its online community today. No one is playing the new modes. No one cares about the new maps. It's a select bunch of hardcore gamers playing a creaking old PC title and laughing in the face of change.

Case 4. BRIAN LARA INTERNATIONAL CRICKET
TIME PLAYED: 1 HOUR
TOTAL PLAYERS: 1

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Not so much the story of waiting an hour to play but of the cricket genius who turned up. Proof that the hardcore just refuse to move on. Bowlestown played Halo 3 minutes before running back to the Brian Lara servers and into our lobby. Going by the way he was smashing everything for a six, you get the impression he was the only person left online playing it.

The pad was passed around the office to take turns to bowl him out but no one could topple him. Afterwards we asked how he managed to get so good. "Practice," he says. "You gotta take catches." Someone tell the England team!

Case 5. TENCHU Z
TIME PLAYED: 30 MINUTES
TOTAL PLAYERS: 8

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Somehow, some way, Tenchu Z has to find a way of surviving in the harsh climes of Xbox Live. No one's quite sure how a mediocre stealth game made of about ten polygons has managed to find appeal but find appeal it has, attracting confused ninjas such as TAKEONEG who spent the entire match screaming "NOOO!" and HALO3 Warrior, who hasn't been told that, you know, Halo 3 is out now.

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